Happy New Years and Thoughts on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

It’s the last day of 2013. 2013 has been a decent year for me. I’m making progress on my PhD degree, and went on some fun trips during the warmer months. Hopefully 2014 will be even better. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll finish my doctorate degree in 2014 and have found a job. It’s probably going to be a transitional period of my life. There are a lot of things to do in the new year, and I’m going to work hard and hope for the best. I wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2014.

One of the last things I did in 2013 was to watch the second Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug. My parents and I actually went to the movie theatre three times and finally watched it on our last try. On the previous two trips we decided to turn back because the theatre was too crowded and we didn’t want to sit in the front. There were still a lot of people when we finally watched the movie, but we went early and got seats in the back. It’s the holiday season so a lot of teenagers and college students are out and about, so it’s no surprise that the theatre was doing good business.
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Thoughts on To Aru Majutsu no Index: Miracle of Endymion

After watching the first 25 minutes of the To Aru Majutsu no Index: The Miracle of Endymion movie a couple months ago as a Railgun S special episode, I finally got around to watching the whole film. For something that comes from the Index series, Miracle of Endymion is actually pretty decent, and here’s what I thought of the film.

Warning: contains spoilers.

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New Tablet: Google Nexus 7 16GB (2013)

The last piece of electronics that I’m bringing home for the holidays is a Google Nexus 7 16GB (2013). My parents have a first-gen iPad, but it’s a little old and doesn’t work quite right these days, so they asked me to pick up a tablet during Thanksgiving/Black Friday. Since I didn’t want to battle the crowds to get one of those discounted iPad Minis, I bought a Nexus 7 instead. The discounts are’t as heavy as the ones of the iPads, but the Nexus 7 ends up being cheaper anyways because it has a much lower MSRP. Combined with the fact that the 2013 Nexus 7 has newer and better hardware than the first gen iPad Mini (the retina iPad Mini is a little out of our price range), the choice wasn’t hard. Ultimately the Nexus 7 will stay home with my parents, but of course I had to give it a little test drive, and here are my impressions of the tablet.

Google Nexus 7 box
Time to start unboxing the Nexus 7

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New Dual Lens HD Car Dash Camera

Another piece of electronics I bought during the Thanksgiving/Black Friday period was a car dash camera. As their names indicate, car dash cameras are installed in cars (sometimes on the dashboard) to record what the driver sees. It’s useful for providing evidence in the case of an accident, and also one can use the footage to make a travel movie or something. My dad wanted one of these things so I got one. Car dash cameras range from $20 all the way up to $300+, depending on the manufacturer and the features. I didn’t want to spend too much, so that pretty much limited the choices to some no-brand cameras of questionable reliability. I looked around and ended up getting the what is known as the F70/i1000 dual lens HD dash camera. These are Chinese-made, no-brand cameras that seem to come in various different names and configurations, but all feature a main unit with a small screen and a front lens that records at 1280x720px, and a long wire connected to a rear lens that records at 720x480px. Reviews on Amazon and other shopping places are not that great, with some people getting decent units and others getting bad ones, but I pulled the trigger anyways because this was the only model in that price range that had the features I wanted. Here are my first impressions.

F70 Dash Cam Box
The box for the dash cam.

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New GPS: Garmin nuvi 3490LMT

This Thanksgiving/Black Friday I bought a new vehicle GPS. No, my nuvi 1490LMT isn’t broken. I bought this new GPS for my parents. I was originally thinking of getting a Garmin nuvi 2455LMT or 2555LMT, but there was an Amazon Lightning Deal on the higher-end Garmin nuvi 3490LMT so I decided to try get buy it. Of course, I had to open up the box and test if the GPS works, and here are my first impressions.

Garmin nuvi 3490LMT Box
The Garmin nuvi 3490LMT waiting to be opened.

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Another Step Closer to the PhD

It’s been a busy week thus far, but things have been going well. This week I passed my doctoral candidacy exam, which means I can now be called a PhD candidate instead of just a PhD student. Pretty cool, right :lol: ? The candidacy exam is just another hurdle to jump past in my quest to obtain the mystifying doctoral degree. Our candidacy exam involves presenting a proposal of my dissertation research to the doctoral committee, followed by some Q&A. The exam wasn’t too bad, but I was pretty tired afterwards. I’m just glad I passed.

After the candidacy exam, the next and final hurdle is dissertation defense, which I’m hoping to take next semester. I think I have a lot of presentable results already, but it’s probably a good idea to show some improvement between my candidacy report and the final dissertation. Still a lot of work ahead, but I’m taking this one step at a time.

Thanksgiving and Black Friday Ramblings and My New Monitor

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving. I sure enjoyed my four-day Thanksgiving break. I didn’t travel anywhere, but I didn’t do any work on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and I enjoyed that a lot. Like previous years, I went to my aunt’s place for Thanksgiving dinner, and as always there was a mountain of delicious food that cannot be finished even though there were a lot of people. It was also nice to catch up with relative and acquaintances at the dinner. Unlike previous years though, I didn’t make the midnight trip to the clothing outlets. I didn’t have any clothing items I wanted to buy, and I find extra sleep very valuable these days. Instead, I spent mostly on electronic items these days, both for myself and for my parents. I bought most of the items online, but I did go out both on Thanksgiving night and Black Friday to shop.

The so-called Black Friday sales seem to start earlier every single year, and this year a bunch of the big name retailer opened their doors at 6 PM on Thanksgiving… the exact time when people usually start eating turkey. The online sales were even earlier and some started at midnight on Black Friday. I think they might as well call the whole thing the Thanksgiving sale from now on. Most of the really popular doorbuster items, like the iPads, were quickly sold out online or in store. I visited a Best Buy after Thanksgiving dinner at around 9:30 PM. The store was crowded, but there wasn’t a line up to get in because most of the really sought-after items were long gone. Luckily for me, there were still a couple of those $100 24″ Dell LCD monitors, so I quickly bought one. LCDs have really fallen in price over the years. I remember when I was in high school, my family bought a 17″ no-name LCD for $500 and it was considered cheap at the time. That LCD monitor actually broke and I had to fix it myself. Now 24″ 1080p screens from reputable brands can be found near $100 which I find amazing. It also makes me feel old :wink: . Anyways, below is a mini first-impressions on my new monitor.

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Fall Foliage Recap

It’s November already, which means the 5 months of winter is about to begin here in the Northeast. In the last two months though, I have been using my weekends to enjoy the great outdoors during the autumn season. The temperature during the fall is perfect since it’s not too hot and cold, and more importantly the Northeast is known for its beautiful fall foliage. This post basically summarizes a bunch of my fall season outings with a good amount of photos. Most photo credits go to my various travel buddies, since they are the ones who have the nice DSLRs.

Mount Mansfield view
The expansive view from the top ridge of Mt. Mansfield to the east

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Replacing My Car’s Parking Light Bulb

Every once in a while I have to do a small maintenance task on my car, and this time I had to replace the light bulb for my car’s parking light. It was a fairly easy job, and I managed to get it done without damaging anything or spending too much time wrangling with parts.

Parking light bulb
The old, burnt-out light bulb. It’s a type W 5 W halogen bulb.

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TonyJiang.com: Year 7

It’s that time of the year again. No, I’m not talking about back to school, although I will address that topic later in this post. I’m referring to the anniversary of my personal domain at tonyjiang.com, which has been in existence for 7 years. This year I worked on my websites a bit more than previous years, but in honesty I didn’t do that much either. The biggest change was to give this blog a brand new theme, which I worked on during winter holidays last year. My websites are chugging along as usual, and I’m glad to say that my websites, particularly the good ol’ crabbing guide, are now more popular than ever. The increased traffic also means my ad-serving venture is going better than ever, although I don’t think I can live off of my websites quite just yet. As long as I’m alive and able, I’ll keep maintaining my websites and post some updates on this blog every so often. While I may not be as enthusiastic about playing around with web technologies as before, I still find joy in running some websites and I hope they’ll at least be a good read to some visitors.

Moving on to another topic, classes have started again at my university. However, unlike the previous three years, I don’t need to go to class anymore. I have fulfilled my coursework credits for my degree, and I will spend this final school year working on my PhD dissertation. Not having to attend class, study for exams and do homework feels very nice of course, but this is certainly not the time for me to slack off if I want to graduate sooner rather than later. If everything goes well I’ll graduate in May. There is still a lot of work to though to get to that point, but I’m motivated by the fact that the finish line is finally in sight. Wish me luck.