Neutral

Regional Energy Drink

Monday, December 1, 2014 

I’ve run across this energy drink in dramatic packaging.  Energy drinks aren’t really my thing, but I thought I’d try it: slightly orange tasting fizzy water, mildly sweet with that slightly weird energy drink taste.  But the bottle is fun:

Bomba Bottle Image

It is made in Hungary and seems to be distributed more to the East than the West, at least as far as my travels have indicated.  I have seen it in a lot of Middle-Eastern markets, but not in many European ones.

The lid release mechanism is kind of thematically clever.

Bomba Pull Top Image

I suspect this would be a particularly problematic beverage to forget in your carry-on luggage.

Posted at 18:29:45 UTC

Category: funnyNeutraloddphotoreviews

Otterboxes for the iPhone and Galaxy S3

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 

There are two things I always do with a new digital device, get a good screen protector and a good case. (And the biggest memory card that will fit).

The screen protector is pretty easy: I’ve used both Zagg and Armor Suit and prefer the Armor Suit, but not by much. Both work really well and I have an Armor Suit on my Motorola Razr V9x (still the best basic cell phone I’ve ever owned) that has lived in my pocket for many, many years without a scratch visible on the outer screen.

For cases I lived with an (almost iconic) yellow Defender case for my Blackberry Bold 9000 for about 5 years.  It was awesome, indestructible, and fit the belt holder perfectly.  Alas, it was no match for a random late night cab ride and early flight out of Dubai–can’t defend against that, can ya? Well, it lasted about 5 years, so no complaints. I contacted Otterbox to see if I could get a replacement silicone bit and they checked and only had 2 belt holsters left in stock from the entire product line.  They mailed me those for free. Thanks Otterbox! (One did come in handy eventually.)

I got an iPod from United and, of course, got an Otterbox for it; one of the Commuter series.  With a polycarbonate outer shell protecting the critical corners, and that backed underneath by a few mm of soft silicone, the iPod is extremely well protected.  This is a well-engineered protection model, far better than just a layer of silicone.

A corner drop tends to generate very high localized pressure where the corner tries to merge with the hard surface it is being dropped on. Having the polycarbonate outer shell distributes that pressure load over the silicone underneath it resulting in a broad, gentile distribution of the impact load and minimizing the risk of localized overpressure which would crack plastic or glass.

Conversely, simple silicone sleeves without the polycarbonate layer, while adding critical padding and being fairly effective in most cases, can’t distribute the impact load nearly so effectively.  This should not matter too much for a surface-to-surface drop where the impact force is distributed over the whole back or even an edge of the phone, but in a corner drop the silicone can be effectively mushed out of the way as the hard surface attempts touch delicate plastic or glass in a tragic romance.

This outer shell is what distinguishes the Commuter series from Otter’s lower-cost silicone-only Impact series cases, as well as the host of cheap silicone sleeves on the market.

otterbox_iPhone-vs-Galaxy_S_3.jpg

I replaced the Blackberry with a Samsung Galaxy S3 and got a Commuter case for it.  The case is very nice, not too big, but Otterbox did something very, very wrong.  They rotated the polycarbonate tabs 45 degrees, covering the edges and not the corners.  Why Otter, why? The case is still quite nice and it is the nicest looking and most comfortable I’ve found, but this is an odd engineering mistake.  They talk about the “layers of protection” as a key selling point for their more expensive Commuter and Defender series, yet leave the most fragile corners protected by only a single layer.  As protection goes, it is no better than the Impact since the corners are all that really matters.

The polycarbonate shell does serve to anchor the access flaps closed, which is an improvement over the iPod case, but this could easily have been achieved with a few well-placed polycarbonate fingers reaching around the case without making it difficult to assemble (too many fingers wrapping around the device make it impossible to snap the device into the polycarbonate shell).

Further, the textured silicone edges on the iPod case are actually really nice to hold, far more comfortable and slip-resistant than the polycarbonate edges of the S3 case (and make the iPod less likely to drop than the S3 as well).  As an additional bonus, the iPod version exposes some textured silicone on the back surface making the case somewhat non-slip, while the S3 case is all polycarbonate on the back. Without some non-slip silicone on the back, the likelihood that the enclosed device will slip off a sloped surface and onto a hard floor or into a toilet or sink is much greater. While the case makes a disaster far less likely for the former eventuality, it is not waterproof.

While the Android OS just crushes iOS, and the availability of Android-specific tools and applications, particularly for security and encryption, makes it the best choice for a mobile device right now (though security, at least, is even less of a concern with a Blackberry – that’s the one thing Rim still has going for it – that and efficient use of data), Otterbox really could have done a better job with the case.   Hopefully the S4 case will get it right.


 

Update

It has been almost 2 years and I’ve been carrying the Otterbox-protected S3 more or less continuously since in a relatively active and somewhat unforgiving environment, not that anyone’s pocket or purse would fail to meet that definition.  A few issues emerged:

  • The rubber flap covering the USB port, which you need to access at least twice a day for charging, tore off very early on;
  • I change SIMS a few times a month and the case doesn’t really like being taken on and off and eventually cracked in two places, but it still holds together;
  • The unprotected silicone covering the corners began to deteriorate fairly quickly, as I predicted, and one corner has disintegrated completely, leaving that most fragile of impact points unprotected.

Failed corner of the otterbox case

I’d probably buy another – two years is a pretty good life (but not as good as the 5 my blackberry gave me.  I still miss that phone).  I wish Otterbox would focus on protecting the corners, not the edges. The iPod case, far less heavily used but equally traveled shows no wear on the corners at all and provides the same protection it did two years ago.  It is a better design.

Posted at 12:36:41 UTC

Category: cell phonesNeutralphotoreviewstechnology

TFF 38 D1F1: The Turin Horse

Saturday, September 3, 2011 

First day of films at TFF began with The Turin Horse, a slow, atmospheric, challenging, inaccessible film by Bela Tarr about what happened to the owner of the horse who’s beating drove Nietzche mad.

It is a long film, entirely in black and white, with very little dialog.  It is visually quite striking, but definitely not going to make it to the cineplex.  The story grows perhaps allegorical or possibly apocalyptic, but maybe reverses the story of creation.  Maybe not.  But things definitely go from bad to worse to cosmically bad.

Posted at 00:08:15 UTC

Category: filmsNeutralreviews

Chico and Rita

Thursday, September 9, 2010 

TFF 37 Mini Review: Chico and Rita, Spain-Cuba, 2010, 96m

Rita sings at a club

Chico and Rita is an animated story of a talented Cuban jazz pianist named Chico and the love of his life, the talented singer Rita.  They chase each other across the Americas and across the decades, overcoming personal and political barriers to their marital bliss.  The director went to significant effort to stylistically match the period in geography, dress, and music.  The movie’s soundtrack is filled out by performers such as  Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

37th Telluride Film Festival 2010
Chico and Rita, Spain-Cuba, 2010, 96m
Posted at 00:01:58 UTC

Category: filmsGeopostNeutralreviews

Rental Saturn Aura

Thursday, October 8, 2009 

My last rental Saturn?

/Media Card/BlackBerry/pictures/IMG00166-20091008-0850.jpg
Posted at 05:52:49 UTC

Category: Neutralphotorental carsreviews

Das weiße Band

Friday, September 11, 2009 

I saw The White Ribbon at the Telluride Film Festival.  It’s a well crafted film about some very problematic children in Germany just before the first world war.

The movie is intended to in some way illuminate a fertile ground that permits fascism to later grow.  While I found the characters interesting and the cinematography particularly beautiful in some scenes, I did not find anything in the story that seemed to suggest that these people were atypically prepared to turn fascist.

The premise seems to be that the children have committed some particularly brutal and random crimes (stringing a wire in the path of a horse and breaking the shoulder of the rider, tying another child up and caning him, tying yet another up and possibly blinding him) and that these “punishments” were “visited” on the children of sinners (except the first, visited on the sinner himself or perhaps on his horse), as justified in a letter left with the last.

That children would commit atrocious acts of brutality is hardly unique and certainly insufficient as an explanation for the rise of the Nazi party.   Further, the parent’s “sins” are not particularly shocking, though the doctor isn’t overwhelmingly sympathetic despite having a particularly funny sex scene.

It is a well-constructed character study, if a bit slow; a story of some complex and dramatic events, if lacking a strong conclusion; but not for me a revelatory view of the foundations of fascism.

Posted at 01:18:15 UTC

Category: filmsNeutralreviews

Rental Buick Allure CXL

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 

Only 596 km on the clock.

/Media Card/BlackBerry/pictures/IMG00164-20090611-0135.jpg
It wasn’t bad – comfortable and fairly decent performance.  The allure is a little more stylish and sprightly than a taurus.  But it isn’t in the same class as a mercedes.
Posted at 22:34:29 UTC

Category: Neutralrental carsreviews

Rental Hummer H3

Thursday, March 26, 2009 

Odd vehicle awaited me at Hertz when I got in: H3. It isn’t that big, drives like a normal SUV. The faux-armor windows are a bit odd from the inside and it has, therefore, less visibility than a normal SUV, but otherwise seems like any suburban 4WD luxury minivan-ish truck conversion. Maybe there are some challenging roads around Guelph…

IMG00023-20090325-2051.jpg
Posted at 01:00:15 UTC

Category: Neutralphotorental carsreviews

Pontiac grand prix

Monday, October 13, 2008 

IMG00049-20081013-2056.jpg
I rented a pontiac Grand Prix in Canada.  It’s a slightly sporty car that otherwise doesn’t stand out in any way.  The stereo doesn’t have line/ipod inputs but works.  The knob based control system has lots of identical knobs making it easy to change tuning instead of adjusting volume or vice versa.   Otherwise fairly comfortable and basically a competent rental car.
Posted at 21:00:13 UTC

Category: Neutralphotorental carsreviews

A very LA rental

Monday, October 6, 2008 

IMG00021-20081006-1041.jpg
A mustang convertible is about the perfect LA car.  I was very amused to find it waiting in my spot at Hertz.  Alas I only had it for the day and the drive from LAX to Santa Monica doesn’t provide for much sporty driving entertainment.  Still, it’s fun.
Posted at 11:00:13 UTC

Category: Neutralphotorental carsreviews