Star Wars Prequel Trilogy [L8wrtr Fan Edits, REVIEW]

Star Wars - Episode I: Shadow of the SithStar Wars - Episode II: The Republic DividedStar Wars - Episode III: Dawn of the Empire

I have no real love for the prequel trilogy, as discussed in the past. However, with Episode VII coming out in December and Ha having never seen the prequels, I wanted to find tolerable versions of the films that I could watch alongside her.

Enter the Fan Edits! In the past, I have seen the Phantom Edit, Mike Nichols’ edit of The Phantom Menace. However, he never released Episode III nor did HD versions of his edits, so I looked for a complete series in HD. After some research on Internet Fan Edit Database, I decided to check out l8wrtr’s set. The three edits are generally well regarded, receiving 8.9 / 9.0 /9.3 out of 10 from the community with at least 26 votes for each.

Having not seen the any of the prequels in, likely, at least 5 years, my memory wasn’t battling, trying to remember things that were taken out or adjusted.

My thoughts:

  1. They are all quite good. I kind of feel Episode 1 (renamed Shadow of the Sith) is a bit short, but as I discussed about the Phantom Edit 7 years ago, if you do not have additional content to work with, as the real director would, it can be difficult. The pace in Episode 1 is particularly quick; it feels like you’re going from intense scene to intense scene with no time to relax. This is true across all the episodes, however. E I and II are each 96 minutes, while E III is 112.
  2. Try to watch them without seeing what is removed or changed. After watching Episode I, I looked through the notes to understand the changes. This was a bad idea as it reminded me of all the negatives I hated. It’s better to enjoy these as the true versions and not know what else is out there (as Ha now does).
  3. They are rewatchable. In fact, I am fairly certain I will be using these as my definitive versions of the movies if I ever want to watch the prequels again.

I realize this isn’t quite a detailed review of what makes the edits good or not good, but it is hard to have such a discussion without spoilers. I think you are better off just watching them for yourself, assuming you are like me and find it difficult to watch George Lucas’ versions. Highly recommended.

Stephen Curry Team USA Jersey Review (AliExpress, Aimee Smith)

To reward myself for a recent 2nd place (but a cash prize!) finish at an innovation competition at Kellogg, I decided to buy myself a fake jersey. Normally I wouldn’t do this, at least not knowingly (damn you eBay!), but I wanted to look at the process of buying things from AliExpress (an Alibaba company), which helps Chinese vendors sell directly to international consumers. Prior to this, I had been curious about the quality of fake jerseys, and who made the best ones. You can find plenty of reviews of fake jerseys on YouTube, but sub-Reddits like http://www.reddit.com/r/sportsjerseys and http://www.reddit.com/r/basketballjerseys/ are also very useful.

I ended up deciding on a Stephen Curry Nike FIBA 2014 jersey, primarily because as far as I know, it was never sold to the public as Curry is signed to Under Armour. For the seller (there are a number of them), I chose “Aimee Smith”, who has great reviews both online and within the AliExpress storefront – as of my writing this post, she had received feedback from 10,299 people with 99.4% reporting positive transactions. This means about 10,237 people liked “her”, while just 62 people did not. I, for what it’s worth, also liked her.

Before going into the jersey , I’ll talk a bit more about the AliExpress experience:

https://i0.wp.com/style.aliunicorn.com/wimg/buyer/single/standard-definition-logo.png

  • Security: AliExpress is very easy to use – you do not need to worry about credit card security issues, or any other negative fears you may hold about buying from some “random” site in China. AliExpress (and Alibaba) is no random company – they have been doing this a long time, and you will see that in your shopping. AliExpress accepts all major credit cards (American Express, Visa, Mastercard) and also has a clear buyer protection policy. The website is no harder to use (and is likely easier) than any other American site that you like.
  • Responsiveness: It is very easy to ask sellers questions, and Aimee Smith in particular is very responsive. She answered all my questions in less than a day and often, within minutes (keep in mind the different time zones). On eBay, whether you get any responses at all is random based on seller. From my experience, eBay sellers response properly less than 50% of time.
  • Reviews: If you are fairly comfortable buying things on eBay or Amazon 3rd Party sellers, you will be fine on AliExpress. What I especially like about the service is that you can review the specific product from that seller. Thus, I could see what others felt about the specific Curry jersey I was buying from Aimee Smith. This makes sense for AliExpress since their products are not one-off goods (e.g. I only have one to sell, like my limited edition baseball card). This wouldn’t make as much sense for many small volume eBay sellers but it would for some and it would definitely make sense for many Amazon sellers.
  • Shipping / Tracking:  Assuming you get a good seller, AliExpress also does a great job of letting you know the status after you order. Even though you can check your order details on the site, however, the site never sends a detailed receipt via email

If you’re interested in AliExpress, I definitely say try it without fear, but do make sure you check for sellers with strong feedback before doing so, just as you would (I would hope) with purchases from eBay or Amazon 3rd party vendors.

On to the jersey!

I am happy with it. No complaints considering the price and fact that I cannot get (a major incentive to buy fake jerseys is when an authentic version is unavailable) a real one. The Curry jersey cost less than $22 shipped, and I received it in about 2.5 weeks (coming from China, after all) after ordering. If you are interested in fake jerseys, I would not hesitate to get one from Aimee Smith, and all the feedback online I have seen agree.

While I have not worn the jersey to play basketball in, the material is really soft. I am sure it does not have Dri-Fit or any other moisture-wicking technology built-in, but the jersey is light and I could see myself wearing it. In this sense, if you are normally someone who wears t-shirts for athletic wear, I would recommend this as an alternative. I bought a size small (I am 5’6, 140 lbs.) and I feel it was correctly sized.

To get into the details, let’s do a comparison of images from Getty Images,

455063814 455055924a Paul George authentic jersey auction on eBay,

and Nike Store images.clip_image0014clip_image001And for reference, my Stephen Curry Aimee Smith USA Jersey:

I imagine it might be tricky to compare all these images in this kind of vertical-line view, so I’ll summarize what I see as best as I can:

  1. For the USA lettering on the front, the authentic jerseys are flat (almost like a screen print integrated into the jersey material) and the borders around the letters are dark. On the Aimee Smith version, the borders are red, and the lettering is stitched.
  2. I believe the USA badge (on right chest of player above Nike symbol) on the authentics is printed on the jersey, while it is embroidered on the Aimee Smith.
  3. The placement and size of the “4” on the front match Getty images fairly well. There is no FIBA patch on the left clavicle, but some fake sellers have it.

Moving to the back and other components. This time, I will show Getty first, then the Aimee Smith and Paul George authentic alternating different parts.

455160982imageimageimageimageOther than the “4” on the back being too high relative to the Curry name, the back looks pretty good as well. While I could not tell how accurate the lettering was based on the Getty Images photo, comparing the Aimee Smith Curry to the Paul George authentic reveals that the “R” looks pretty close. Again, the Aimee Smith is more of a Swingman jersey in which all letters and numbers are stitched, which is not the case with the authentic. The jock tag at the bottom front of the jersey is much different between the two jerseys, which is also true of the collar tag. Nonetheless, if you had nothing to compare either with, it would be difficult to say that one of them appears fake.

As I mentioned before, the quality of the jersey is excellent – it probably looks no worse than an authentic Obsidian Warriors Swingman alternate jersey I bought from the NBA store a few months ago for 4 times the price. It could have easily sold as an authentic Nike USA swingman and it is likely better than an authentic replica Andre Iguodala Nike USA jersey that I own. I hope this helps, but feel free to ask me questions!

A Look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 in 2014 [Review]

A few months ago, I got a great present from Midland – a Galaxy Tab 2 10.1” Wifi (Wireless, no cellular 3G) tablet. Even though Midland himself said it was a bit slow, I wanted to check it out anyway as I’ve never owned a true tablet. After installing CyanogenMod to make the tablet run as fast as possible, here are my impressions as well as some app recommendations.

Web Browsing: this is the worst aspect of using the device. I use Firefox, which is well regarded on Google Play, and also what I use on my laptop. Whether you are browsing multiple tabs or just a single one, loading web pages feels much slower than on the same connection with a PC. Firefox tends to forget which websites I’ve opened and sometimes will erase my session completely even when I have not closed the browser, leading to much frustration. In general, while a normal user who tends to open 1 page at a time and read casually will not have a problem with the Tablet, it’s an inadequate experience for me.

I use Firefox along with the AdBlock and LastPass extensions. I suggest paying for the LastPass Premium service so you can access its mobile app – LastPass lets you save your passwords in the cloud and can help you manage your passwords across desktop / laptop PC’s, mobile phones, and tablets. Because of this, I only remember critical passwords from a few sites, otherwise letting LastPass store the rest and making it convenient for me to login to websites wherever I am. AdBlock removes ads from websites. Although I do like ads from time to time, since the Note is so slow at web browsing, every little bit of speed helps.

Apps: If your favorite sites and services have good Android apps, this will take away much of the pain from the spotty web browsing experience. Using Facebook, Twitter, etc., works great on the large 10” screen. The app experience is not necessarily incredibly fast, but I have never felt it to be slow, at least not in comparison to the web experience. As I have been traveling a lot recently, TripAdvisor is a prime example of a website that is terrible to use on the tablet but is quite good on the app side. However, instead of having one general TripAdvisor app that you can use for any location, TripAdvisor only has apps for specific cities. This is great if you are going to a city (Frankfurt, Bangkok, etc.) that does have a specialized app for it, but obviously terrible if it does not (Saigon).

For news, I use Feedly. It does not match the PC version because I cannot enable the Android app to mark an article as “read” if I swipe past the headline. Thus, if I go into Feedly every couple of hours, I will continue to revisit articles that I did not want to read. This has really discouraged me from using the app.

Typing is not a great experience because of the screen dimensions, regardless if you use an alternative keyboard (the tablet can lag at times when using Swiftkey, making me slow down and create more mistakes) or the standard one. This tablet won’t be a go-to device if you are hoping to write long WordPress blogs on it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1Comic Books: I always imagined that this would be the main reason for owning a tablet, at least for me, and I’ve been proved right. My reading of digital comics has really been extensive this year- likely more in the last 3 months than in any 1 year period for the last 10 years. ComicRack makes reading comics anywhere anytime super convenient just as the Amazon Kindle made reading books did.

Media Player: (Movies, Music, Photos) I’m a bit disappointed you cannot use Amazon Prime streaming on non-Kindle Android devices. Otherwise, YouTube has an excellent Android app. I use MX Player to load movies from memory cards. Smugmug has a great app which will download your photo library to your Android device automatically, making it easy to see or search your photos wherever you go, regardless of your data connection. When I am back in the US, I may try some music radio apps like Spotify or Pandora. For now, all I have loaded is Hype Machine, which I have used on the PC, but not yet tried on the tablet.

Books: I think the Amazon Kindle app is solid on the Android. I still prefer reading on a Kindle device as it’s easier to switch pages and read with one hand, but if you only have this tablet, you will enjoy reading on it as well. Adobe Reader is a surprisingly solid app for reading PDF’s.

Games: I haven’t tried much in games. From what I’ve seen of Ha playing, world favorite Candy Crush works great on it. In general, I don’t like playing games on a touch screen or mobile device.

As for the physical device, it feels pretty standard. The resolution is relatively low for today’s devices, but this doesn’t bother me much. All the buttons work fine, and the tablet is not too heavy. I added another 32GB SDHC card to supplement the internal 16GB and a Tech Armor screen protector which makes fingerprints less obvious but also dulls the screen slightly. A complaint I have is regarding the unit’s battery charging. I am not sure how to charge the tablet via USB (meaning I cannot plug it into my computer to charge it), and even when I charge it via a power outlet, it just takes too long – I think it would take at least 5 hours to charge the tablet, which is essentially an overnight charge. iPhones and my laptop (Lenovo x230) get charging done, it feels, within 2-3 hours.

The Tablet 2 is nearly two years old today, and since then Samsung has issued some amazing new replacements, at least in terms of their hardware specifications. If you are able to get a Tablet 2 in good condition for around $100, I definitely recommend one, particularly if you do not need it much for online web browsing.