I meant to post this at the end of December. The end of January will work though. Humor shall not be bound by the limitations of “timing.”
Just some fun random stuff now and then…
Another year draws to a close. As as the old year goes out, gasping for life, it throws one last month-long party. As always I thought “Oh, surely things can’t get any busier than last month!” Wrong as always. It’s a running joke with no punchline. Here are a few highlights from December, my nemesis.
And then, like a flash, it was 2015…
These are the movies that I have watched in 2014 (they have to be current movies from 2014 year or late 2013 watched in 2014 to make the list). Newest movies are at the the top. My goal last year was 50 movies, half in a theater. Final count: 37 movies, 21 in theaters. Not even close.
Unbroken 7/10 – I didn’t read Unbroken but I did enjoy the movie. I think it’s difficult to portray years worth of suffering in a two hour film and we, as viewers, tend to forget that the story is true which may compound that difficulty. Fran said she wished they had included the struggle and triumph of the post war chapter’s of the book.
The Hobbit 7/10- Weakest of the entries. Absolutely watchable, but extended far beyond what was necessary.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 7/10 – Quite entertaining. Solid visuals and a fun story. I had heard that Michael Bay planed to “rape our childhood memories” but this was not at all the case.
22 Jump Street 7/10 – Some solid and funny moments. Not as good as the original.
Million Dollar Arm 6/10 - Contrived but entertaining. Not a big sports fan so I’m sure that’s why I didn’t relate too well.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 8/10 – This was enjoyable. A little slower paced than it could have been (ergo two movies) but lots of things here to appreciate. Every time I think Jennifer Lawrence shouldn’t have been Katniss she changes my mind.
Need for Speed 7/10 – Okay, I admit it. Parts of this movie really lame. But in other ways it really delivered and stayed true to the roots of the game. I got what I wanted from it and sometimes that’s enough.
Expendables 3 6/10 – I’m pretty sure this is the same movie as number two… Good thing all the bad guys are so incompetent!
Maleficent 7/10 – I liked it better in some ways than Sleeping Beauty, but less in others (why did they have to make the fairies that dumb?). The altered back story is interesting and the movie has memorable moments.
A Million Ways to Die in the West 6/10 – Vulgar hit and miss humor. Seth needs to stick to cartoons and teddy bears.
Big Hero 6 7.5/10 - Another excellent effort from Disney (who needs Pixar?). I’ve loved robots since I was little so there’s an emotional element here that’s satisfying. It was a little hard to relate to the characters, but the story and visuals were excellent.
Interstellar 9/10 - For me Nolan is becoming what M. Night should have been.I loved the twists and turns this movie took. I guess I’ve always been a sucker for “Save the Earth” science fiction. No real disappointments for me on this one (with the possible exception of some questionable casting- but that’s not a big deal). It was a blast to be able to go see this in IMAX with the whole family.
The Maze Runner 7.5/10 – I really enjoyed this movie. I liked the casting, pacing and the perpetual tension they created. I’m not a huge fan of creating more questions that you answer, but I guess that’s what sequels are for, right?
Hercules 6.9/10 – Watching a heavily buffed up Dwayne Johnson strut his stuff as amoral mercenary who uses the Herculean legends for personal gain is an interesting angle. He may not really be the son of Zeus but there is greatness in him after all. Fun to watch, but it’s a one trick pony.
Muppets: Most Wanted 6.5/10 – I really struggled though this movie. The songs and comedy just didn’t connect with me. I know the movie is supposed to be a little silly, but it may have been a little to silly for its own good.
Heaven is for Real 6.9/10 - Eh… it’s a nice enough feel-good movie but it didn’t resonate with me on a deep level.
Guardians of the Galaxy 9/10 - I had my expectations pretty high for this. I try not to do that, but with Marvel movies that’s been hard for me. To pluck five obscure comic book characters out of “thin air” and give them their own movie seems like risky business. But the writing, cinematography and acting made it work really well. I already want to watch this again.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 6.9/10 - Certainly okay to watch, but not particularly memorable. Good action / thriller filler.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 7.5/10 - This surprised me. I’m not a huge Planet of the Apes fan but this movie lays some thoughtful groundwork for what is to come (what already came). CG has come so far it’s amazing.
Snowpiercer 7/10 - I’m not completely sure what to make of this movie. The storytelling is compelling but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get from it. If you try and think of the movie literally it doesn’t make sense, but as an allegory it’s entertaining.
Transformers: Age of Extinction 6.5/10 – This was a massive disappointment. Three hours of bad dialogue, impossible explosions, an incomprehensible plot mixed together with robots. I love robots. It’s too bad they made Optimus Prime into such a sissy. I swear everyone beats this guy up.
300: Rise of an Empire 6/10 – After the first 300 this movie was a total let down. Reminded me a lot of Sky Captain (i.e. everything looked CG). I just couldn’t bring myself to care what was going on.
Lone Survivor 7/10 – Harrowing and intense this movie inspires awe and gratitude.
Edge of Tomorrow 8/10 – I admit it. I like Tom Cruise. I have liked all his recent movies and I can’t figure out why he can’t seem to score a box office hit. Edge of Tomorrow is basically like a science fiction Groundhog Day and I really enjoyed it.
I, Frankenstein 5.5/10 – I like Aaron Eckert. He even makes a good Frankenstein. But this movie is difficult to enjoy when the plot retreats into a God vs. Satan end of the world vehicle. Between so-so CG, a mess of a plot and a monster who’d clearly rather be somewhere else this one is miss.
Divergent 7/10 – This was actually a lot better than I was expecting. Reading the book prepared me for the worst in some ways. While I liked the books ideas there were some serious plot issues that I feel like the movie actually addressed and corrected. Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.
Saving Mr. Banks 7.5/10 - While not quite historically accurate this is a great story. I liked the acting, pacing and feeling of the movie.
Captain Phillips 8/10 - Love Tom Hanks (maybe not his accent in this) and he does a fantastic job. Good pacing, lots of tension and action.
I always feel like November goes in like a lamb and comes out like a lion. At work we have a lot of holiday preparation to take care of and things go crazy right after Thanksgiving (and they don’t let up for a solid month). Lots of family events and activities create an even tighter time crunch. But we love it, right?
Well… I think that’s enough sarcasm for one month. Let’s get together and do it again sometime. Maybe I’ll be a little less on edge next time. I can’t imagine that would be the case but you never know. Tallyho!
The new 2015 Z06 is finally available (customers have started getting their orders as of a week ago)! Availability doesn’t seem as limited as I’d imagined and some dealers have started putting them on eBay. I have to admit this one caught my eye:
I love the white and red interior / exterior combo. And the black accents really work for me. Very nice. This particular dealer has the car priced way over the MSRP. Part of me understands the desire to make a few extra bucks but I also feel like it’s price gouging. I would never pay anything over the suggested retail price just to bypass a few weeks (or months) of waiting. Shady business practices aside I love how this car looks- it pushes all of my buttons. It’s fun to see pictures of ready to buy production Corvettes.
Speculated availability on these cars suggested they were going to be hard to come by. However, after poking around a bit, it appears that several local dealers have Z06 models in stock (or will shortly); Their websites are a little unclear on what’s available. If they do have access to a Z06, I’m a little surprised that I didn’t hear from any of them. Shortly after the new Z06 was announced I visited the two closest dealers to me in person to see if I could secure one. At one dealer the manager told me “I could order you a Z06 but I’d never get it.” Regardless I left my phone number and contact info with several sales people. I did the same thing at Another dealership as well. Later I tried several online chats to see if anyone was keping a list of people who were interested in the Z06 (one dealer was extremely rude). I sent several emails as well. Eventually I heard back from a dealer that I emailed (I had bought a car from them before) but was told it would be about a year before they could order a car. All things considered it was a little disappointing. If (when?) I decide to make a move I guess no one local is getting my business. Note: The Z06 is not the car I mentioned trying to buy in another post.
I also spent some time looking online at out of state options. From what I can tell getting a 2015 Z06 at MSRP shouldn’t be too difficult. In fact, I recently talked with a dealer in Chicago who will have an identical car to the eBay listing I mention for sale at MSRP (the only catch is a short wait). That might just be too good to pass up. If you’re looking for some good leads you can try stringrayforums.com. They have quite a few supporting dealers and someone always seems to know where to find a car or two. Be careful as you shop- there’s no reason to get gouged or be subjected to disinterest or apathy.
And now I will continue my Corvette wanderlust.
I felt reasonably pleased with the Sony stereo that came with my Raptor (granted, expectations were low) but the stock sub wasn’t cutting it. First I tried a modification that involved filling the sub enclosure with Poly-Fil. While it certainly helped a bit it wasn’t enough. I looked around for more options and eventually decided I’d have to do an aftermarket sub. Behold!
After doing some research I was pretty confident it was a DIY job. Various forum posts suggested install time would be a couple of hours. However it took me much longer (I’m a little obsessive and I seemed to run into a lot of hiccups with this project). There are some good online resources showing how to add an aftermarket amp and sub (like this one) so I won’t go into too much detail regarding the actual install. But I will break down what I got and how well it works.
JL Audio Stealthbox w/ a 13″ TW5v2-2 : I really wanted something “plug and play” and JL Audio’s stealth box fit the bill. The 13″ sub was a little bigger than I wanted as my preference is nice tight bass (I’ve always been a 10″ sub man), but overall it sounds very good, especially given how shallow it is. Mounting was a little tricky (I had to have my wife stand on the box while I screwed it into the floor mounted brackets) but the overall fit is excellent and it looks fantastic.
L Audio JX 500/1 & RBC-1 Remote : Small, straightforward and willing to accept hi-level inputs (the signal from the sub wires). I had a JX in my Camaro and it was perfect so I went with one again. I left the frequency filter at 200hz working off the assumption that the headunit is providing a filtered signal already- seems to work well. A remote is important when your stereo doesn’t have an independent sub volume (I think on the JX series the RBC-1 allows you to control the gain). I mounted my control knob behind my shifter (a ridiculously difficult wire run that required the disassembly of the center console). While installing the RBC some of the threads on the remote broke off which was aggravating. I’m glad the remote is a two-piece design so I can replace it later.
AudioControl LC2i : In the end I decided to bypass this. I was excited to use it to turn on the amp, but I ended up just tapping into an accessory circuit wire. Processing your audio signal more times than you have to can’t help so I was just as happy not to use it.
Planet Audio Pak4 Sub Kit : Ehhh. I only needed the positive power cable, remote turn-on wire and the fuse holder (buying the kit was cheaper than buying them separately). It’s good enough, but I would get a different (nicer) kit if I did it again.
Overall things went smoothly (although I ran into some funny hiccups- I’ll mention some of them below and maybe someone else can be spared). The worst part for me was drilling through the truck’s carpet, pad and chassis- there was no turning back at that point! I was pretty meticulous about hiding all the wires and running them in the right spots so that probably contributed to the project’s duration. There is no static when the radio is off (like in my Tacoma), no popping noises (when shutting off the car), no alternator whine and everything works just like it’s supposed to.
After everything was installed and adjusted it felt like the mids and highs were a bit flat and muddy. The volume seemed okay, but nothing I did seemed to fix the washed out sound. Some people seem vehemently against the practice but I decided to replace the speakers and run them off the of the stock Ford amp. Another round of JL Audio with some Dynamat for good measure.
JL Audio C5075ct: After doing of lot of research I decided against component speakers. Since there’s no simple way to run new speaker wire from the door to the cabin I wasn’t sure how I’d use the crossover (the C6075ct’s have an inline crossover) and I was worried about power requirements of most of the component sets I looked at. These JL tweeters have nice clear detail that was simply missing from the stock tweeters. There was some slight sibilance that I combated by pointing the tweeters toward the dash. Overall they are an amazing upgrade that really brightens the sound up.
JL Audio C2-570X: I bought two sets of these thinking I’d use them in the front and back. In retrospect that was a dumb plan. The C2-570X’s sound great in the back- just the right amount of fill and volume. Sadly in the front the speakers sounded harsh and tinny; they just didn’t produce the mid and low ranges with enough oomph and the extra tweeter was overkill (I would have cut the power to the tweeter if the woofer had sounded okay). I ended up pulling the C2-570X’s out and reinstalling the stock woofer speakers. So much better. The Ford / Sony speakers are not junk by any means and, in my opinion, the woofers sound good with the JL Tweeters (mids aren’t quite right but the highs really compensate). I should have tested things more carefully while doing the install. Lesson learned.
As I put the speakers in I filled the back of the doors with Dynamat and used it to create a cradle. The Raptor doors are covered by thick black plastic so I didn’t end up using the Dynamat as extensively as anticipated. Does it help? I can’t say for sure- it definitely eliminates the hollow sound when knocking on the door. Mostly I just feel cool that I have some Dynamat in my truck.
And check out my cute little helper! She assisted with unpacking the goodies, poked tools into every opening she could find, played with tape, the Dynamat, ran off with my wires and even helped me test and tweak my music (“That sounds good, Daddy?”). I couldn’t have done it without her :).
I would say the with all the modifications the sound is vastly improved. At rest and in motion music (and bass) is plenty loud and the level of clarity and detail is much higher. There is still some distortion at high volumes and I’m not 100% certain the sub is getting a full range signal. Nevertheless I’m pleased with how this stereo has turned out. Each time I have hopped into my truck I’ve thought “Hey, this is pretty good!” One day I will probably go another round (4 or 5 channel amp, something like JL Audio’s Clean Sweep and some better components / woofers) but I don’t feel like there’s any hurry. And given how integrated head units have become with vehicle systems my preference is to keep things as stock as possible.
Before bolting the the JL Audio Stealth Box down I decided to test it out. I kept hearing a whistling noise. I finally realized it was coming from the holes in the sub enclosure where the mounting screws would eventually go.
And then I kept hearing a high pitched whine / squealing noise. No matter where I looked I could hear the noise but I couldn’t find it. It took me a few minutes to realize the sound was coming from my flashlight.
When I initially hooked everything up the amp didn’t come on- it looked like it was DOA. My multimeter is packed in a box somewhere and I haven’t found it yet (we recently moved) but I did some testing and was able to determine the amp was fine. Why was there no power? It was a bad ground. The bolt where I’d attached my ground wire was connected to the chassis but it turned out that the receiving nut had a plastic cover that completely isolated it from the metal of the chassis. Geez. Always check your ground.
When I went to put the interior panels back onto the rear doors I discovered that the bolts the hold the panel onto the metal frame had nowhere to screw into. The clip they were supposed to go into had fallen off on both doors. The only reason I even realized there was a clip is because one of them stuck to the magnet of a speaker I removed.
After hooking everything up I reattached the battery cable and fired up the stereo. All I could hear was a static buzz! I thought I’d hooked something up wrong. It turns out that the radio defaults to an AM channel with no signal. Oh boy.
Altogether I would rate this as a fairly straightforward install (especially compared to some of the stuff I’ve done). It seemed like a lot of little stuff went wrong and things took longer than they should have. I completed the install over several days but all told I’m guessing I put in about ten hours. To reiterate though: absolutely worth it.
I bought a Ford Raptor. That’s right- I’m a Ford man now. My apologies to all the Ford people I have teased and hurt over the years. I thought it was my unspoken duty since I didn’t actually own a Ford… I see now that I was wrong (so wrong). The Raptor is an amazing truck and I am thrilled with this purchase.
I’ve actually wanted a Raptor for a long time. After I sold my first Tacoma I looked at them seriously and even test drove a couple. Ultimately I went with another Tacoma due to size restrictions (a Raptor would not have fit in my last garage). Later after selling all my cars I looked at Raptors again but decided to stick with my Tacoma and get a new car. And that’s what I tried to do.
Confession time. Back in early July I actually ordered a really nice car. “Two to three months,” they said. I was okay with that. And so I waited. And waited. And waited. After nearly four months I wasn’t any closer to getting a car (due to “allocation decisions” the manufacturer hadn’t even picked the order up from the dealer for manufacturing). I was pretty turned off and so I started to look around again. And that’s when I came across the perfect Raptor…
White, Roush off-road package (supercharger!), sweet upgraded bumpers, massive light bars- it was the one! I know from having watched Raptor listings on dealer websites that they typically don’t last long so I jumped on it ASAP.
I bought the truck from Ken Garff Ford and I have to say that I had a fairly pleasant experience. Everything was super laid back- no pressure (maybe a little too laid back). Everyone was helpful and friendly and they made the negotiations, trade in process and paperwork fairly painless. I was even able to purchase a official Roush warranty through the dealership for extra peace of mind. So far I’ve had my truck to the dealer twice for service issues and modifications and things have gone pretty well (I did run into a couple of issues on my second trip but they got things nicely resolved).
Visually there’s a lot here to enjoy. I love the look of the Raptor’s exterior- it’s big, aggressive, sporty and to me the front grill and wider stance looks way better than a regular F-150. I had the front end on my Raptor raised to level it out a bit. I’m not totally sold on the bed graphics but I think they will grow on me.
I think the Addictive Desert Designs bumpers and Rigid lights in the front (and back) kick the visual appeal up a notch. And the bumpers make me feel like if I get in an accident I’m driving home and they aren’t. The LED light bars are super bright- probably a little overkill (total lumen output is rated at 25,000+). I’m really excited to take this truck off-roading (Baja 1000! Just kidding).
I had Ken Garff Ford put on 20 x 9 BMF Novakane rims & 35 x 12.5″ Nitto Terra Grappler G2’s. Originally I’d wanted the rims blacked out but the wait time was 3-6 months. I opted to get BMF’s “death metal” two tone finish and I really like it. The offset on the rims pushes the tires out a bit past the bumper which I like as well.
The interior is classic black (with some silver trim)- in some ways basic, but very functional. Nice layout, comfortable power seats (heating and cooling!) and lots of cabin headroom even with a sunroof! I don’t know why but I love sunroofs. The gauge cluster and the interior technology are light years ahead of my Tacoma. The stereo isn’t bad either- I think it just needs a better subwoofer (I’m on it!).
And of course the Roush Phase 2 kit. The supercharger bumps the power output to 590 HP and 590 lb ft of torque (crank- and probably not that much at Utah’s elevation). I am wary of modifications like this after what I’ve been through but having a warranty helps me feel okay about it. The kit also includes a cat back exhaust system that enhances the audible rumble from the truck (and creates a small amount of drone at certain RMPs), a boost gauge, embroidered head rests and window and bed decals.
I haven’t had the truck too long at this point but my initial impressions are almost all positive. The handling is exceptional- much better than my Tacoma. Given it’s size the truck feels surprisingly agile and solidly planted to the ground. After changing wheels and raising the front suspension the ride is a bit stiffer but that suits my preference perfectly. Very happy with the drivability.
And, for a truck, the the Raptor is fast (owing that, in part, to the supercharger). I had to pull off to the side of the freeway and when I merged back on I was impressed by the acceleration. It’s not a race car, but it might just be a race truck.
There are some little things that bother me. For example the 12V power plugs are always on so I can’t leave any accessories (i.e. a radar detector) plugged in. And even though the car keeps track of nearly every operating parameter there is no easy way see some things (i.e. a digital speedometer or tire pressures). I also wish the truck had side collision detection. As I said, all little stuff.
Overall I’d put myself deeply in the “fanboy” camp. At some point – after I’ve owned it for awhile- I’ll do a more in depth review (I’m probably lying). Bottom line: this is a great truck with some exceptional features. For now it’s going to be my only vehicle (I cancelled my car order) and that’s just fine with me.