Happy holidays everyone! Not really much to say other than that! :)
I can't believe I'm playing this. After nearly six years of development, Gran Turismo 5 is finally spinning inside my PS3. To be honest, the cynic in me never thought I'd see this day. With each passing year, it seemed like Gran Turismo 5 was less and less likely to ever see the light of day but Polyphony Digital has proven me wrong and now, I can finally see the fruits of their labor and it is good.
I started off installing the game to my hard drive. Since installing the game promised shorter loading times and better overall usability, I decided to give it a go. Final install time? 35 minutes. Not as long as the quoted hour that some folks have experienced but not exactly short either. Personally, I'd rather get things like this out of the way first so they don't intrude on my gaming experience later.
After installing the game, the intro move began to play. I won't go too in depth about this but the intro is fantastic and easily the best I've seen from any racing game, much less a Gran Turismo game. You really do get the feeling that Kazunori Yamauchi and the rest of the Polyphony Digital team really do love cars. The video begins with the birth of the car, showing the various stages of a car's manufacturing process, from gathering of raw materials to pounding out chassis components and finally, the vehicles finally rolling off the line and then, gameplay footage begins. Absolutely epic stuff here.
So, after watching the intro movie, I was eager to plunge into GT mode and begin my career as a virtual pro racing driver and get out there onto the track. To start off my career, I bought myself am '89 Mazda Eunos Roadster and immediately headed to the track in the A-Spec Sunday Cup. As I expected, the driving experience was highly satisfying, thanks in no small part to the fantastic handling physics which feel much improved from Gran Turismo 5: Prologue which leads to more responsive handling, an appropriately weighty feel of the vehicle you're driving and a more visceral and raw driving experience. Polyphony Digital has really crafted an excellent sim here based on what I've experienced so far.
After winning the Sunday Cup, I was surprised to see that I'd also won a PD100 kart racer and that a special kart racing event had just opened up under the Special Events section of the menu. So, interested to see how Polyphony Digital handled kart racing, I loaded up the event and took a spin in my brand new Go-Kart.
Without mincing words, this is by far the most fun you'll probably have playing Gran Turismo 5. The karts, albeit limited to only 75 – 78 mph or so, are so incredibly fun to drive that you don't miss the triple digit speeds of higher end cars. Another reason you don't miss those high speeds is the fact that Polyphony Digital has nailed the sense of speed. Sitting so low to the ground and in the open air, the perceived sense of speed is much higher than normal and thus, you look and feel like you're going a lot faster than you actually are. Driving a kart is an absolute blast in GT5 and is highly likely to become a fan favorite online.
It wasn't long until I'd finally gained enough experience and saved up enough credits to buy myself a new car, another Mazda, an '02 Spirit RX-7 which was a considerable step up from my Eunos and once I hit the track again, I couldn't help but smile as I began to drive the RX-7. It was an amazing handling machine that I immediately fell in love with. The handling model in this game is truly impressive and allows me to feel the power the RX-7 delivers to the road and the smooth, weighty but not heavy handling that defines the driving experience the RX-7 brings to the table.
Visually speaking, GT5 is quite the looker at times. The premium cars are highly detailed and are about as close to the real thing as you're likely to see in a videogame. It goes without saying that the graphics engine powering GT5 is a very impressive technical achievement considering that it has to render up to 16 of these highly detailed cars at once at 1080p (granted, not full 1080p) and at 60 frames per second. For the most part, I'm very impressed but some of the standard cars aren't quite up to par, and by not quite up to par, I mean some of them look positively awful.
Initial impressions of GT5 are quite positive. The driving physics are very impressive, the visuals are great and the kart racing is an absolute blast. I'm looking forward to spending a great deal more time with the game to see just how well it performs after the initial rush has worn off. Hopefully, the game will shape up quite nicely over time and my long term impressions will be just as solid as those upon first playing the game.
Here's my setup for at home listening, consisting of the Fiio E9 I was sent for review, a Fiio E7, which serves as a DAC and my Playstation 1 operating as a CD player or my laptop, using the Fiio E7 as a USB DAC and E9 as an amplifier.
Here's my transportable rig, consisting of an Asus EEE 1005PE Netbook, a Fiio E7 portable headphone amplifier/USB DAC and my Audio Technica ATH-M50s headphones.
My netbook is chock full of lossless music so it makes for an excellent transportable hi-fi solution that fits easily into a backpack.
Both setups sound amazing to my ears. Look for my review of the Fiio E7 and E9 coming up soon on Musical Musings!
Writing is a passion of mine and it has been for a very long time. I don't know what it is but the mere idea of transcribing my thoughts on paper or on a computer elicits a warm and comforting feeling deep inside. At the same time, while writing fills me with a sense of pride and accomplishment, finishing something I've started writing or have thought of writing is a great deal more difficult than I'd like it to be. Thus, the idea of writing something seems like a rather daunting task and, at times, fills me with dread. Why? Because I feel as though my creativity has been sapped. The figurative well has run dry.
I feel as though I have a great number of ideas in my head but I can't seem to flesh them out in a way that is pleasing to me. It's as if I have the seed to grow the tree of a complete idea but I can't seem to get it to grow. I have so many ideas for novels, screenplays, short stories, etc. in my head but none of them are…stories in the truest sense of the word. It's just a basic idea; the seed, if you will, that won't grow. It's not complete. The concept is there, but I can't seem to get it to manifest into a fully realized story. I've tried writing stream of consciousness, I've tried brainstorming but nothing seems to work. I just can't complete the puzzle in my mind and articulate it in written form.
This is really shaking my resolve both as a writer currently as well as in the future. What is it that I'm missing here? Do I need to write more? Do I need to force myself to write when I don't feel as though I need to? I honestly don't know. In addition, it seems that the more editorial writing I do, the lower my creative abilities seem to wane. I consider my creative writing to be a completely separate entity from the more journalistic work I do for my blogs, thus, I feel the need to exercise both facets that make up the whole of my writing ability to stay sharp. Unfortunately, as I said before, my creative side seems to be lacking. Now, I'm trapped in a catch 22 situation in which I want to write more creative works but my creativity is lacking and to improve my creative faculties, I need to write more. It's an endless and vicious cycle.
People have pointed out that I tend to be too critical of myself and my work. Well, that's because I'm a perfectionist when it comes to the things I'm passionate about. One bad thing about that is that it takes me a great deal of time to finish a piece of writing but another is that I'm impatient. I've always been very impatient when it comes to the things I want. I'm the kind of person who orders something on the internet and wants it delivered yesterday. When it comes to writing, that's even harder to deal with because, when I do get the idea to write something, I always want to gloss over or skip the slower parts of the work and get right to the exciting moments. This impatience of mine is hugely detrimental to my will to write because I know that, in writing a novel, not all of it is going to be amazingly fun to write and ultimately, I lose the will to write entirely.
Perhaps this impatience is something I need to get over before I can delve deeper into writing. Maybe that's what is holding me back as a writer. I'm so impatient to get ideas I have onto paper both literally and figuratively that I feel a physical and indescribable rush during the build-up in which I'm writing the filler necessary to bring me to the written manifestation of an idea that I've had. Once I have written it down, I sort of have to step back, in reverence of what I've written. Not because of some arrogant sense that the body of work before me is the best thing ever written, but in the sense that I can finally see it on paper or on a computer screen, and that alone, as small as it is, fills me with a sense of pride.
Now, that feeling is becoming rarer and rarer to come by these days. Writing, something that I once found immense joy in and was so easy that I used to write short stories for fun for both myself and my friends to enjoy, is now difficult and much less easy to enjoy because of it. I don't feel that I'm a worse writer, in fact, I'm better now than I've ever been but, in the same way that Barry Sanders was a great running back that was held back from true greatness by a mediocre team, I think my writing ability is being held back by my own negative mindset.
Part of the reason I'm writing this is because NaNoWriMo is coming soon and my inbox has been flooded with reminders of the upcoming month of novel writing and, just like last year, I'd love to participate but I don't think my writing ability is up to snuff purely because I can't seem to come up with a consistent and cohesive storyline to write about. Again, there's more of that self-doubt rearing its ugly head. See what I mean about the vicious cycle?
I guess I'll figure this out, maybe with a little more introspection. Maybe I just need to go on a reading binge and the ideas will come to me after having read some great literary works. Last night, I was struck by a couple of ideas that I plan to use in some of my work so maybe these are what I need to get myself going and maybe once I get the ball rolling, it won't be as difficult to keep it rolling. I guess we'll find out soon enough.
Doesn't she look pretty? I call her "Ampy". :D
Okay...I'm totally lying about the name...
Anyway, as you all may know, I've become something of an audiophile as of late (It's all Head-Fi's fault, I swear!) and what audiophile worth his salt doesn't have a tube amplifier? Well, the hundreds, even thousands of dollars it costs to get a typical tube amplifier and regular maintenance in the form of buying new tubes when old ones burn out (they're just like light bulbs, but they don't last as long...) is well out of my price range so I did some digging and found this little guy, A Bravo Amplifier V2, which uses a single 12AU7 tube to process both its input and output stages. I won't bore you with any of the technical details beyond that but I can say that this sounds pretty great so far with all of the headphones and IEMs I've tested with it so I'm very pleased. I also hear it opens up quite nicely with better tubes so I'll be looking into that as well.
I will be writing a full review on this little amp in the near future so stay tuned for a link to that on my music related blog Musical Musings.
And, as a little bonus, here's a couple of pictures of the Sansa Fuze I've been using as my go-to portable player recently, consisting of my trusty RE0s and a Fiio E3 amp.
Yeah...I know I'm crazy. :)
My internets before...
My internets now...
I'm just so happy...
Just as a little background information, my old internet speed was around 3.0Mbps down before my father had the bright idea to install our home alarm system on the same line as our DSL which massively cut our speeds. On bad days, we'd be getting close to 0.2Mbps down which hardly feels any better than dial-up for regular browsing and was downight useless for gaming. So, I took the initiative to upgrade us to a much faster connection while still paying roughly the same amount as we were for DSL. Pretty good deal if you ask me. :wink:
My last three blog posts have exactly 6 comments each.
Just thought I'd point that out.
Before I begin, I have to say, Amazon's Prime shipping is amazing. I purchased these yesterday afternoon around 2:00 EST and opted for the $3.99 one day shipping option and they arrived this morning around 11:00. Amazing stuff.
I've listened to and written a great deal about portable headphones and in ear monitors for my site, Musical Musings. It's become somewhat of an obsession for me. I'm always pursuing the best possible sound quality I can get for my money and, when I finally entered the market to find a suitable upgrade replacement for my full-size Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones for home listening, there was always one set that kept popping up in discussions of great budget headphones. That pair of headphones happened to be Audio Technica's ATH-M50 studio monitors. Lauded for their deep, thumping bass, detailed sound and, best of all, low price. So, I finally decided to take the plunge.
Pulling these headphones out of the box, I was actually rather surprised by how small and light they were. That's not to say I was expecting a massive pair of cans but, in comparison to my HD280 Pros, they're a bit on the small side. The lightweight design fits on my head very comfortably with little adjustment and is very comfortable for my admittedly short listening sessions so far. Once I started to listen to music, I found that these were a bit different than what I was expecting. As much as members of Head-Fi talked about their deep, almost subwoofer-like bass, the low end is actually rather polite so far. There's definitely a good amount of well-defined bass, more than the average headphone I'd imagine but not as massive as I expected. The midrange sounds a tiny bit recessed in comparison with the meaty low end but is still very lively and engaging despite their slightly laid-back presentation. Treble is a bit hard and edgy so far, but not unpleasantly so. Occasionally, some high notes are become tad strident but so far, it's not at all bad.
The level of detail these cans can pump out is astounding, considering their price. Instrument separation is excellent and the soundstage is a bit wider and deeper than I would've expected from a pair of closed headphones. I'm really enjoying them for many different genres of music, including Hip-Hop, Electronic, cla-ssical and Jazz.
As you can probably tell, I'm very impressed with the M50s so far. They are definitely an upgrade over my HD280 Pros and I am enjoying them a great deal. Listening to music as I write this post is a very pleasant experience, one that I can see myself enjoying for a long time to come. These can be found online at several retailers for around $100 and for that price, I think these are a steal. Of course, these haven't been properly "burned in" yet and I will report back if any significant changes occur in that time.
Today, as I was absentmindedly taking the garbage cans to the curb for tomorrow's pickup, I was suddenly and unexpectedly greeted by what looked to be a relatively large pit bull terrier rapidly trotting toward me. By the time I'd turned around from tending to the can, he was already upon me and I hardly had time to react. I remember seeing the dog, realizing how close he was to me, freezing in place and blurting out the first thing that came to mind.
Not only couldn't I believe that I was face to face with an apparently stray pit bull but I also couldn't believe that he was so friendly. The usual stereotype of pit bulls is that they are insanely aggressive and will attack anyone and anything that breathes and is not their master. Apparently, this stereotype isn't as true as I thought it was (as I learned from Wikipedia just moments ago). As I looked at it and its demeanor toward me, I knew it wouldn't attack me. In fact, he looked at me as if I was a friend, someone he'd known for years. I wanted to pet him and hug him and take him into my home and treat him with love and care for years to come. But, I was still wary of his temperament so I didn't make any sudden moves and as soon as it turned its back on me, I darted into my backyard and closed the gate.
I hated to do this, as I discovered that the dog was following me. Closing the gate in his face made me feel this horrible sensation of guilt in the pit of my stomach, guilt that's still there as I write this. But, being safe (or at least, somewhat safe) allowed me to pull out my phone and take a couple pictures. They admittedly aren't the best pictures in the world seeing as I couldn't follow him around to command his attention but they allow you to see just how lovable this dog looks. I wish I could've gotten a picture with him facing the camera so you could see how friendly he seemed but, I didn't. I did, however, capture a brief video that I have uploaded to YouTube.
As you can see, the dog is gorgeous. Obviously well fed, he was large, playful and full of energy. His coat was clean and he appeared to be well groomed. This makes me think that perhaps he wasn't a stray. Maybe his owner accidentally left the gate open and he got out and was wandering about looking for home. Maybe he escaped from an owner that wasn't treating him right and that he didn't like but was nonetheless loyal enough not to attack him. I don't know. Whatever the case may be, without a collar of any kind, there was no way I could've perhaps contacted his owner to let them know that I'd found his or her dog, if there was an owner at all.
After I managed to get the cans to the curb without the dog mauling me, I regrettably had to leave and go to a family get-together so, with the dog following me around the car as I got into it; I hated closing the door on him once again and driving off, his big brown eyes following me as I left. I really wish I could've taken him in, even if only for a short time until his owner had been located but it wasn't my decision and making spur of the moment decision to take in a dog, especially a Pit Bull, doesn't seem like the best idea. He just had this warm, inviting look about him that said "I'll be your best friend for as long as I'm here" and as much as I love dogs, it was tough walking away from him.
This experience resonates particularly strongly with me because it reminds me of a story my father told me years ago. When I was young, no older than two or three, I suddenly became very, very ill. Prior to my illness, a stray dog had started showing up outside our home and just sat there, staring up at my room. At night, while I was sick, the dog would howl incessantly until my father went outside to chase him away. Each subsequent night after until I was well again, the dog would return and sit in the same spot and howl. When I did recover, the dog disappeared, seemingly because it no longer had to look after me. I was far too young at the time to remember this occurring but the story has always stayed with me and has likely fueled my love of dogs.
I now wonder where the dog is now because he wasn't around when I got home this evening but I know that I shouldn't worry about it too much. He'll be alright and so will I. Someday, I know that I will be a dog owner. Whether or not I own an American Pit Bull Terrier remains to be seen but this experience has definitely caused me to grow fond of them.
For the past three and a half years, I've been using the same phone...a phone that was about two years past its prime when I got it. A phone that has been a constant annoyance to me. A phone that I hated the day it was forced upon me by my father three and a half years ago instead of allowing me to pay him the necessary amount for a phone that I really wanted (which, at the time. was the LG EnV) and have hated ever since.
What was this phone, you ask? Well, I'll show you.
Yep, the Motorola RAZR V3m from Verizon. This is a phone that saw its first release in 2005, a phone that was, at the time, ahead of its time. Its feature set, sleek profile and high-cla-ss fashionista good looks propelled it to the top of many people's most wanted lists and its initial sales reflected its massive mainstream appeal. Time passed however, and better, even more feature packed phones hit the market. In early 2007, when it was time for me to upgrade, the RAZR was passé and I was dead set on getting something with a QWERTY keyboard. I really didn't care what I got, as long as it had one. Obviously, the RAZR does not have a keyboard so I did not want it. I asked my father about letting me pay him for the phone I wanted but, as usual, he was dodgy, never giving me a straight answer until one day when...surprise! A package arrived from FedEx and he pulled out a pair of RAZRs (one for myself and one for my mother) and shoved one of them into my hands. Long story short...I never liked this phone. Not one bit.
Fast forward to 2010 and now, I am in possession of a new phone. Something vastly superior to my old RAZR and a phone that I am very pleased with now and I imagine that I'll continue to be pleased with as time goes on. An LG EnV Touch.
Isn't she beautiful? :) The external screen is a 3 inch touchscreen of the resistive variety. Now, I'm not too thrilled about working with a resistive touchscreen again after using the wonderfully accurate capacitive touchscreen on my iPod Touch and using it is going to take some getting used to but so far, my experience with it has been positive. Besides, it makes up for its failings in being bright, vibrant and packing an impressive 800 x 400 resolution. Opening the phone up reveals another 3 inch LCD screen that lacks touch sensitivity. The screen does pack that impressive 800 x 400 resolution, however which makes it just as vibrant and colorful, if not more so than the external screen. Also inside is a full QWERTY keyboard, the likes of which I've wanted for years, as I stated earlier.
In terms of features, this phone is as feature packed as one can expect a dumbphone (that's not an insult to those who aren't aware) to be and I'm definitely pleased with the wealth of features available to me. Aside from my keyboard requirement, I was also in the market for a phone with a decent camera. Well, this phone's 3.2 Megapixel shooter is no slouch in that department. It certainly won't replace my Z100fd as my workhorse camera but for quick snaps of things I come across when I don't have my camera with me, this will definitely suffice.
I took some photos with it during a trip to a local vegetable market so you can see for yourself how they turned out.
Now, I contemplated getting a smartphone such as the Motorola Droid X or HTC Droid Incredible (leaning toward the Droid X) but, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really don't have a use for a smartphone. Nearly everything I could see myself doing with a Droid I could pretty much already do with my iPod Touch, aside from making phone calls, of course. With that in mind, I couldn't justify paying $30 a month for the data plan required with the purchase of any smartphone through Verizon.
So, I'm very pleased with my purchase and glad I can finally bid my RAZR adieu. I've added a new album dedicated to photos of my phone (yes, I went a little crazy...) on my personal photo gallery. Check it out! Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to play with my new toy a bit more.
Er...I mean conduct serious, important business on it...>_>