Archive for the ‘Pick-ups’ Category
Like most people, I enjoyed playing with Lego as a kid and building fanciful constructions. I was not able to afford the fancy themed sets like Pirates or Space, which I could only marvel with amazement at in Toys R Us. But I had a box of loose Lego bricks that satisfied me just fine and allowed my imagination to run free.
After nearly 20 years of not building Lego, I developed a sudden itch when I randomly came across Lego’s Ultimate Collector’s Series (UCS). These are large, elaborate Lego sets targeted towards young adults and resemble models more than toys. Unsurprisingly, they’re also expensive but are true collectibles. After selling a UCS set retail for a couple years, Lego retires it forever and the value skyrockets on the flourishing aftermarket. The most famous example is the UCS Star Wars Millennium Falcon, which was retired in 2009 and is now worth $2,000+ from a MSRP of $500.
I fell in love with the UCS Star Wars Imperial Shuttle, one of the iconic spacecraft from Star Wars. It retails for $260 and will likely be retired next year. Very expensive, but I justified it because of its strong value in the used market and appreciation in the future. So I can easily get my money back if I want to sell it, or even make money if I’m willing to wait a couple years.
Look how amazing it looks! And I finally have my very first Lego set, all these years later!
Tablets have been the hottest trend in consumer electronics lately, but while they are convenient in certain use cases, there’s no denying that laptops are far more versatile and powerful. My days in the classroom are behind me so I have not needed a daily laptop for the past couple years. But in the next several months, I will be doing a lot of business travelling with the need to do some computing on the road. Luckily for me, this need coincides with the grand launch of Intel’s Ultrabook initiative in October 2011.
Ultrabooks are ultrathin, light-weight laptops running mobile versions of the newest generation Intel CPUs with targeted prices of sub-$1000. Apple’s MacBook Air would technically fit into this product category, although it is not officially designated as an ultrabook. Acer and ASUS released their first ultrabooks just a couple weeks ago, and Lenovo and Toshiba are next in line. I have been admiring the ASUS Zenbook ever since its announcement, and now that I finally have it in my hands, I am delighted that it does not disappoint.
Traffic laws seem to be mere suggestions in Taiwan, as drivers routinely commit blatant violations and drive recklessly with little regard for their own safety, let alone the safety of anybody else. The problem is compounded by vehicle density and the swarms of scooters that are characteristic of Taiwan roads. The police, who are lackadaisical about enforcing traffic laws, don’t help the situation either.
In-car camera recorders are very popular in Taiwan to have video evidence of violations and to protect drivers against liability in case of collisions. With the advent of Youtube and these recorders, Taiwan has developed an interesting subculture of citizen traffic cops. Randomly browse through Youtube Taiwan’s most viewed videos in the Auto category and you’ll discover an abundance of videos uploaded by drivers with in-car cameras. Frequently, they’re just sharing their latest recordings of crazy events on the road (this one is a must watch!), but users will help identify license plates of hit-and-runs and submit videos to the police. Particularly popular videos can force the police to take action and make it onto TV news broadcasts. For example, this video was broadcasted a couple days later on national TV.
For my birthday a few months back, my parents bought me this fancy video recorder system by one of the leading Taiwan developers of this tech. It’s called the Hermes MVR 102 by Witness Technology (English site). Some people use their iPhones/Android phones as makeshift dashboard cameras, but this is more sophisticated and can record 4 video inputs simultaneously. The product is a custom rearview mirror (with 2 built-in cameras) that clips onto your pre-existing rearview mirror, with support for 2 additional cameras that can be installed wherever you wish. While an in-car video recorder isn’t as vital for protection in the USA compared to Taiwan, I have been using this device for months and love it.
Sonic the Hedgehog had a rough decade with a succession of ridiculed games, but developer Sonic Team may be rediscovering its talent at last. Last year’s Sonic Colors for Wii was a spectacular (and surprising) success. The upcoming Sonic Generations appears genuinely promising and will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog with levels inspired from 20 years of Sonic history.
Sonic Generations will be out late 2011, unfortunately missing the June month of the anniversary. But to commemorate the occasion, I decided to finally open a Sonic statue I had purchased a couple years ago. Built by First 4 Figures, this is a hand-painted 12″ statue limited to 1,500 pieces. It cost over $100, but is well constructed with a reassuring heft and makes quite a nice collectible.
My old PC is 4 years old and has been falling apart piece by piece over the past year. Most notably, the video card and on-board LAN both burned out. Performance has also become sluggish due to accumulated age, even after cleaning out all the dust, fresh installs of Windows, and my best attempts at optimization. I’ve been putting up with it for months now, but I finally decided to upgrade this weekend at long last. With the recent release of Intel’s new 2nd generation Core CPUs, this is an opportune time to upgrade!
While I consider myself a technology enthusiast, I don’t follow the PC hardware world much until the time approaches for an upcoming upgrade. Luckily, PC builders are passionate and extremely helpful so it’s very easy to get caught up with the latest developments and make an informed purchase decision. Building a PC is a three step process: 1) picking out and buying components, 2) assembling the PC, and 3) software installation. It’s a lot of fun and easy as well, even if you’ve never built your own PC before. If you can put together Ikea furniture, you can build a PC. It’s like Lego for adults.
The benefits of PC building over buying complete PCs from a retail store? Cheaper computers and learning about your PC components come to mind (even superficial knowledge can be helpful if your computer breaks down in the future and you need to troubleshoot). But most of all, you get a sense of ownership and pride with your shiny new PC that you built with your own hands!
First I have a few photos of my new PC, then at the end of this post, I will provide some handy resources that were very helpful after a 4 year absence from PC building.
My first and only Apple product, an iPod Touch 2nd gen, was given by my medical school last year so that I could use pertinent apps while working at the hospital. When it comes to mp3 players, I have long been a supporter of Korean devices from iRiver and Cowon that even today offer the best audio quality in the business. However, they can’t compete with Apple’s devices in the categories of internet browsing and App support, which these days are more practical for me. So my media player of choice has gradually gravitated to the iPod Touch.
Apple released the 4th generation (4G) of the iPod Touch just a few days ago. At first glance, the new iPod Touch appears to finally catch up with the iPhone in terms of features. The list of upgrades certainly sound impressive: 720p HD video recording, front and rear-facing cameras, built-in microphone, FaceTime video calls through Wi-Fi, higher resolution screen, faster CPU, thinner body. Do we finally have the long-desired “iPhone equivalent without the phone”? But even after a cursory playtest, the components are without a doubt lower quality in comparison to the iPhone 4.
Although my A Bathing Ape collection is rather modest, especially compared to some diehard fans, my Bape posts so far have been well received so let’s continue! Today’s update strays from clothing into the world of print publications.
The e-mook is a Japanese concept that hasn’t seemed to catch fire outside of Asia. Half catalog, half magazine, e-mooks are promotional material dedicated to specific fashion labels that highlight clothing and goods from the upcoming season. They also contain articles about the company and pictorials of models and celebrity customers. Average price for an e-mook is $20. Seems strange to pay for advertising, but the hook for many collectors is the exclusive gift included with each e-mook.
Starting in 2005, Bape has published a quarterly e-mook. It is borderline impossible to track down the older gifts on the aftermarket so I didn’t even bother, but I recently finally completed my collection of the print material.