Casper Mattress Review – Sleep Dangerously

casper I've had a bad back since being a teenager. Competitive swimming left me with small stress fractures in the lower vertebrae of my spine. Getting hit by a car didn't help the situation either – point being, my back isn't great. Over the past couple months my old mattress had been making it abundantly clear that it was no longer cutting the mustard. Each morning was met with a painful sitting up period where my back felt as if it was crushing into itself followed by a painful standing period. Once vertical, I'd stumble out of the bedroom gripping my lower back and begin my morning routine. I'd heard about memory foam mattresses and how great they are, but that those benefits came with some steep costs. Namely trapping heat making for a hot sleep, and a weird feeling of being enveloped. Neither of these things sounded like something I want any part of – my search continued. Then one day at work a co-worker told me that a friend of his had bought a mattress from a sleep startup called Casper. I went over to their site at caspersleep.com (which is pretty slick looking) and read up on it. The mattress is made in New York and consists of a memory foam core, with a latex top. They say this adds more bounce to the mattress which benefits "bed sports", sleeps cooler, and provides the much needed support someone with say a 3 minute standing process each morning may benefit from. The best part about the mattress is that there is a 40 day return policy where if you don't like it you can have them come pick it up within 40 days for a refund. Casper-Mattress I ordered a queen size for $850 (a super reasonable price as far as I'm concerned). My friend ended up ordering one right after me and she put down my name and email address and said I was her referrer, and they gave her $75 off and gave me $75 cash. Not bad. When the bed came, it arrived in a relatively small box I opened it up and within minutes the mattress had inflated and expanded to its full size. There was a little bit of a plastic smell to it (called off gassing I would learn later). But that went away within a couple hours. It was firmer than I had expected, but felt comfortable. It's been over 40 days since I received my Casper, and I am pretty happy with it. I find myself falling asleep faster on it than on my old mattress. I no longer have the lengthy and painful standing ritual in the mornings, either. I still wake up with back pain on occasion, but its not nearly as bad as it was on my old bed. And its no where near as often. I'm pretty impressed with it. My girlfriend's experience is a little different than mine, though. Her back is fine, but after sleeping on the Casper she discovered that she was waking up with lower back pain. According to her research it may be because on foam mattresses people tend to move around less. So if you fall asleep in a position where you are not aligned you may have some issued. I emailed the Casper customer support line telling them that our 40 day trial period was already over, but we were having some issues with the mattress. In addition to extending the length of our trial period the representative is shipping a gel mattress topper (at no cost to me), saying that it could help with her back issues and that he is sorry that she is having pain. Last night she experimented with putting a pillow between her knees to keep everything lined up and said she felt a lot better in the morning so I am hoping that this topper will also help. I am blown away but their customer service, and genuine caring about their customers. I'll update this post to let ya know the effects of the gel topper on both myself and my girlfriend, but I have high hopes.
Looks like Casper has changed the way they do the referral program. Use this link to get $50 off, and it will kick me back $50 as well.
UPDATE: So the topper they sent us was a Milliard Gel Infused Memory Foam from amazon. It's great! It adds a very soft upper layer similar to pillow top mattresses. It is made with gel infused memory foam, so its supposed to have cooling properties (which I haven't noticed really, but it doesn't seem to trap heat which I am fine with). My girlfriend hasn't complained of back issues since the first night we added the pad to the bed so mission accomplished. New bed forever! UPDATE 2: Looks like Casper has changed the way they do the referral program. Use this link to get $50 off, and it will kick me back $50 as well. They also seem to have extended the 40 day trial to 100 days. UPDATE 3: A commenter on the blog said that they are no longer giving out toppers. It was something that Casper was doing pre-2016, and is no longer something they do. If you buy a Casper now, they likely wont give you a topper if you complain. Can still buy one, though.

Herman Miller Sayl Chair Review

I've never owned a nice chair. In the past I've just bought stuff from an office supply store, or Ikea. Normally these chairs last a couple years, then they start making noises, or falling apart. My last chair, from Ikea was fake leather and it started to make loud popping noises when you'd shift your weight or stand up, the leather finish was also worn away on parts of the seat. The worst thing about these types of chairs is that they are usually just put together so that they are cheaply produced and not much time or money goes into the visual design or the ergonomics.

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Blaz Blue Calamity Trigger Review

For the past few days I've been playing quite a bit of Blaz Blue. I've been through the story mode a few times, played through the Arcade mode, and done some Online as well. The online mode especially is so much better than any other online fighting game I've played. I like how you can have multiple people in the room and have even more spectating. Now for someone like me who is awful at this and fighting games in general, I don't necessarily want people watching me lose, but its nice to know I have the option.

The story mode is, as they said in the Giant Bomb quick look, "aggressively incomprehensible"  but who comes to these games for story. The fighting is where it counts, and Blaz Blue has that shit down. The combat is deep and rewarding, and the characters all feel very different. Litchi for example can put her staff into the ground and you can use that at any point to attack, or you can use it to stand on top of and get out way of the enemy's attacks. If you like great 2d graphics and fast paced inventive fighters you should give Blaz Blue a try.

iPhone 3Gs Review

iphone For a long time now I've had an iPod touch (1st gen, and 2nd gen), the iPhone's semi-retarded cousin. With the release of the 3Gs I decided that it was time to move up to the real deal, so yesterday I stopped by an AT&T store near work and picked up a 32GB one. Half way through the transaction the computer crashed (just my luck) and I ended up getting charged twice for the phone and the apple care plan. Awesome. I am still getting that double charge sorted out. I love the device itself, despite the trouble that getting it has been. It is a great iPod, movie player, GPS, and a decent phone to boot. I've noticed that the amount of signal I get can be finicky. Sometimes I'll have 5 bars and other times I'll only get 1 in the same exact place. Overall I get better signal in my house and at work and most of Chicago has 3G so I can browse the internet and download shit quickly no matter where I am. Its pretty convenient. The camera is kind of weak in low light, but outside or in well lit interiors it works fine. I am pretty impressed with the video and the auto focus and tap to focus stuff. Last night I was playing around with the voice recognition stuff and its pretty awful... oh well, I'll never use that anyway. I have been working on getting some videogame ringtones on there. So far I have stuff from crystalis, mario 2, zelda 2, and team fortress 2. I found this website that lets you convert an mp3 into the correct file type for iPhone ringtones then you just drag it into the ringtones section of itunes.

Demon’s Souls

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I imported the Asian version of From Software's "Demon's Souls" a few weeks ago. I've been playing for about 10 hours so far and I feel I've gotten enough playtime I'm to formulate some feelings on the game. The first thing you'll notice about Demon's Souls is its difficulty, which will be extremely polarizing. You'll either appreciate the challenge and work really hard to overcome it, or you'll be turned off by it and never want to see this game again. Now a bit of back story. Demon's Souls takes place in the fictional kingdom of Boletaria, a once great nation now being ravaged by a demon scourge. As a result, people who die are trapped in what is called The Nexus. After a brief tutorial level you are thrown into a battle with a gigantic boss, who proceeds to kill you in one hit. This sets up the game's story and gives you a bit of a taste for just how challenging the game will be. The Nexus is the game's main hub where you can teleport to the various stages, buy or store items, and learn or upgrade skills (after you beat level 1-1). When you start the game the only level available to you is 1-1. This serves as a time for you to learn the combat, and the basic skills in the game like dodging, attacking, and blocking. Over the course of the level you open up shortcuts which let you get back to areas deeper in the level without having to fight through the whole thing again if you die (which you most likely will). There will be enemies you just cant beat in the beginning so these shortcuts act as a path to get to various parts of the level to revisit these super enemies. Anyway, at some point in level 1 you open a large gate to the first boss. Once the first boss is dispatched all 4 other areas levels become available as well as the ability to go deeper into level 1 (and giving you a second entry point to the level in the process), it also opens up the ability to purchase skill upgrades and magic. Enter souls. Souls are the game's money--they are used to upgrade your stats (strength, endurance, vitality, etc), buy or upgrade and fix your weapons, and purchase magical spells. Part of this games difficulty comes from the way in which souls are handled. You gain souls by defeating enemies. Weaklings can give you 6-60 souls, and bigger guys and bosses can give you thousands. If you die however, all of the souls you have at the time are dropped, but you can fight back to where you died and pick them back up, but if you die on your way there a new set of souls drop and the original (usually larger) sum disappears. There are also various online features to the game including 4 player co-op, and a sort of MMO style online mode where you can see other players as ghosts in your world. You can also leave messages on the ground for others to read and to warn them of danger or of secret items. If you see a message that you find helpful, you can rate it which will give some life back to the person that left the message. You can also leave messages if there is a part you're having trouble passing and passers by will be able to lend a hand by rating your message and refilling your life. This is why you'll see a ton of "This is harsh. Evaluate me." messages. There is even a PVP system in the game where players can force themselves into other someone else world and stalk and kill them as a phantom. I am having a lot of fun with Demon's Souls so far, and I cant wait to see some of the later areas in the game. Though, I think I'll level up a little bit more first.

The Brothers Bloom – Fucking Amazing.

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Before I begin, I feel that I have to give a little but of a warning. I'm going to be pretty much be gushing over this movie for the next few paragraphs, I loved it, so with that in mind, keep reading.

The Brothers Bloom, right from the start, made its way onto my list of "favorite movies ever". Almost everything about it is exactly what I want to see in a Con-Man movie. It keeps you guessing, and just when you think you know whats going on it pulls the rug out from under you and you're left wondering how you were so wrong. Its smart, funny, and beautifully shot and has intelligent people in unpredictable situations reacting in very smart ways, plus it has a really hot asian lady, that doesn't hurt either.

The first thing I noticed when the movie started was the camera-work. This is not taking place in our world. Its some world where these people and Amélie Poulain live, where everything looks breathtakingly beautiful, and everything is framed and cropped just so. The scenes have a great depth to them. Characters walk  down a dark path in one part of the frame, and some lights will flick on in sequence in the background. There is just so much to take in. I feel like I could watch this movie a hundred times and still see new things with each subsequent viewing.

Mark Ruffalo, Adrian Brody and Rachel Weisz are charming, witty, and immediately likable characters. I really liked how they managed to show the differences between the two brothers and how Bloom (Brody) is always getting crapped on while his brother Steven (Ruffalo) is coasting through life without a care. They manage to distill this down to simple use of props at times like the interaction with the sugar shaker. Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), even though silent for the majority of the movie, has tons of personality and her fair share of charm as well. Plus shes really hot.

I really cannot recommend this movie more. It was awesome.

Killzone 2 Multiplayer Review

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I've been playing Killzone 2's multiplayer mode for a week now and figured it was about time to give the old girl a review. The graphics are amazing, that goes without saying. Screenshots don't do this game justice. The textures are sharp. The models are detailed. The particle system is crazy, allowing for dust and debris to blow by in the wind. Explosions look natural and dangerous with billowing volumetric smoke and fire. Its all very impressive. The fact that this much detail is in the physics engine, even in multiplayer, is astonishing. Just last night I was running behind my friend Jason, and his character kicked a tire aside as he ran past, I was blown away. The game's unlock system, is pretty cool. It makes you earn the ability to use the games multiple classes instead of just giving them to you at the outset like Team Fortress. It gives you something to shoot for instead of just blindly plugging away at dudes with your rifle for hours. You can get new abilities and weapons by achieving small, per round goals, like getting 10 headshots with a pistol. You earn ribbons, which when collected to a pre-set number, earns you medals. These medals are what give you the additional skills. The game modes, which rotate between, control point, capture the flag, assasination, and deathmatch type games keep the game new and fun for extended play periods. 32 vs. 32 player matches can get pretty crazy on the smaller maps. I want to try some 16 vs. 16 to see if it alleviates some of the grenade frenzy that sometimes occurs. The controls (especially when set to Alternate 2) are great. I've heard lots of people complain about them, but I think they are just being stupid. To me they feel a lot like COD4 but with a little more weight. It translates to it feeling more realistic, for me anyway. Ultimately, I don't think the muliplayer is as good as COD4, but its damn close. I've only played the single player very briefly, but if its half as good as the multiplayer I've got a lot to look forward to.

Soul Calibur IV Review

Soul Calibur IV's visuals will make your socks shoot off your feet like little smelly rockets. It's got fantastic, high-rez textures on very well modeled, detailed, cool looking characters. The stages are beautiful and varied (I like the pirate ship one!), though from playing through the story mode you might not expect it. During my 5 or 6 plays through story mode I think I saw a total of 4 stages. Then, on my play through Arcade mode almost every stage was something I hadn't seen before. Liz and I have started the Tower of Lost Souls game mode. It's difficulty is relatively high, but it gives little clues about what you have to do to win a hidden treasure chest for each round. In these treasure chests you receive clothing to use when customizing your character. The ability to modify existing character's look and augment them with additional stat bonus' and abilities is pretty awesome. The create a character mode is also super deep and is way more customizable than I had expected it to be. I have made 2 characters so far and both look just as believable in the SC universe as any of the main story players. I wish there was a name generator, though. I suck with coming up with names. The cast of fighters is filled with familiar faces like Ivy, Cervantes, Maxi, Kilik and Talim, as well as some new comers (Algol, Hilde) and guest characters (Darth Vader, The Apprentice, etc). I could have done without some of the manga artist created characters like Angol Fear. She kind of breaks the visual aesthetic of the rest of the game.  It's easy enough to just not pick her in battles. Soul Calibur IV is the cumulative knowledge of an already great fighting game applied in a way that makes the game become something fantastic. It's easy to pick up and play, but has the depth necessary to continue learning and improving the more time you invest.

Call of Duty 4 Review

I just finished COD4 and the credits are rolling. While hadn't played any of the other Call of Duty games, I really enjoyed this one. The S.A.S. missions with Soap, Gaz, and Capt. Price were probably my favorite ones I  and especially liked the mission in the gillie suit. That one was awesome. I also liked the final USMC mission. That one had some pretty powerful imagery. I cant think of another game that has done anything like that. The graphics in the game were pretty good too, but I wish that the shadows were a little softer. And some of the bump mapping looked a little weird. Aside from that it was beautiful. Ah shit! Another playable part after the credits! Whew. That was pretty cool too. Ha ha ha I wasn't expecting that! The story isn't anything fantastic, but it does get you to care about your team over the course of the game. I also liked how you're the one that gets to take out the main bad guy at the end when Capt. Price slides you the gun. This game is absolutely fantastic and I think that I'll be playing its online mode for a long time still. If you haven't played this game already go pick it up. Its probably one of the best games so far this generation.

The Dark Knight Movie Review

Let me preface this by first saying that I really loved Batman Begins. That out of the way, I think The Dark Knight is a better movie in every single way possible. Heath Ledger blows every past Joker out of the water (including animated versions and such). He perfect for the role, and the writing and plot surrounding his character is so smart, and brilliantly planned. The bank heist in the beginning helps set the stage with what you should expect from him for the rest of the movie. You really get to see how fantastic of a villain The Joker is, and why he deserves to be Batman's nemesis. I liked the treatment of Joker's back story, and the nods to the graphic novel "The Killing Joke" in which the Joker tells Batman his "origins" and that he believes anyone could become just like him if they had one really bad day. Oh, and the disappearing pencil trick was awesome. I've been listening to and reading a lot of reviews and a lot of the complaints about this movie are the same ones that were raised for the first movie. People don't like how Christian Bale speaks when dressed as Batman. I think it totally makes sense, though. In a world where people aren't retarded (Superman Universe). He needs to not use his normal voice so people won't recognize him. Bruce does interact with all of the same people as Batman, so I think it just adds another layer of realism. It doesn't matter that it sounds forced. Its not Bruce's real voice either. I think that this movie was not only the best superhero movie to date, but also the best movie of the summer so far. It should definitely be a contender for Best Picture. If Heath Ledger doesn't win Best Actor then he was robbed for much more than just his life. He was absolutely amazing. Whoever plays joker next is going to have a pretty fucking hard time filling his shoes. Go see this movie.

CJ7 Movie Review

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I've been meaning to post a review of CJ7 for awhile now. I got the Bluray disk awhile back. The first thing you notice about the movie is that the visual fidelity of the CG has been improved enormously over Stephen Chow movies like Shaolin Soccer. I was kind of nervous that better CG would lose a certain ridiculousness that his other movies had posessed. Fortunately, this wasnt the case. They more than made up for it in other areas. The story was pretty hilarious, though it makes you feel bad for CJ7 for the whole movie. There is definately the stephen chow token serious moment, which feels familiar, but not in a bad way. Stephen's screen-son was pretty good too, with the notable exception of his attempt at crying. His comedy was spot on, though. It was also great to see people from his other movies making cameos like the foreman at his job, and the son's male teacher. The female teacher was pretty cute too, so that didn't hurt matters. If you are a fan of Stephen Chow or are willing to give HK comedy movies a chance, I'd say this is a good one to try. I'd say its better than Kung Fu Hustle, but not as good as Shaolin Soccer.

Get Smart Movie Review

I've read some reviews that are shitting all over Get Smart for being more about action than comedy and not sticking to the strictly comedic blundering spy formula of the 60's television show. I gotta say, I couldn't disagree more. This movie's comedy may be slightly less slapstick than the show, but its smart, and funny. Don't get me wrong, there is slapstick. Like Steve Carell skewering himself with his pocket knife's harpoon gun trying to escape from ziptie handcuffs, or a blundered trip through a room full of lasers. In addition to the purely slapstick, Get Smart has a much smarter variety of comedy going on in the background. Liz and I both laughed out loud when the director of the good guy spy agency "Control" yelled, "Nuclear!" correcting the President's "Nucular" which is always something that annoys her in movies and she has me noticing now. The story is pretty standard spy fare, but  Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway really sell it. Carell is pretty much the spy version of Micheal Scott from his show The Office, which is awesome. The rest of the cast is all pretty good with some pretty great people in cameos and other minor rolls. Get Smart is a great summer movie, and delivers comedy and action in one neat little package. Sure its no action epic like Indy or Batman, but I think in a summer brimming with big names Get Smart can hold its own.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Review

Metal Gear Solid 4 Review

I just finished Metal Gear Solid 4. I got it last night at midnight, got home at 12:10, then played till 5 am. The next day I played from around 11am till now. Pretty much without any breaks. The whole game took me right around 20 hours to complete (And I managed to get "Eagle" for my codename). Enough anecdotes, onto the review. Metal Gear Solid 4, is a fantastic game. It takes all of the craziness and out-there plots of the past 3 MGS games and manages to tie all of them up, and conclude every character's story perfectly. You even come to understand why the hell Liquid pretty much took over Ocelot's body after having his arm graphted on. The gameplay is very similar to the old games, but with a notable update to the controls. The shooting is great, albiet way easier just using the crosshairs or investing in a scope attachment for your gun. The barrel sights and lazer sights are much harder to use because of how much of your vision is obscured by the gun (because unlike most FPS games, in metal gear you actually hold the gun up to your face to aim in first person. The amount of weapons available in the game are crazy. I picked up most of mine off of enemies and had Drebin (an armsdealer you meet early on in the game) unlock the ID bindings so that I could use them. But in Drebin's store there are tons of guns, add-ons, and explosives. I was surprised with how much variety there was in the gameplay. From firefights, to tailing a mark, to car chases, to tracking people through the wilderness. This game has it all. Not to mention a healthy heaping of Tactical Espionage (Action). The boss fights were amazing and really fun. The lengthy codec conversation with Drebin after each BB Corps fight gets kind of tired, but luckily there are only 4 of those. I wish the story of how they became what the did came from their mouths after the fight or something. The story is pretty much exactly what I wanted from this game. It neatly ends Solid Snake's story and brings everything out into the light of day. I think for people that find themselves scratching their heads at the end of metal gear games, this will be a big sigh of releaf. I think David Hayter gives his best voice performance since the original Metal Gear Solid in 1998. It was pretty awesome. Finally, the graphics. Holy Crap! This game is one of the finest games I've played, at times it rivals Crysis. The faces are more stylized, but they are super detailed and look fantastic. Also, it sounds weird, but I was really impressed with how realistic the tears were. The art team really pushed the PS3 to its limits, and everything runs nice and smooth. I don't think I ever saw any slowdown. If you own a PS3 you should already have this game. It's the best game on the PS3 so far, and best MGS of the series in my opinion.

Grand Theft Auto IV Review

I have never really been a fan of GTA games. That being said, this one seemed like it was going to do enough different that it sounded kind of interesting. When I got the game I liked that the narrative seemed to have been spruced up a bit, but it still felt like a GTA game. Surprisingly, this one kept my interest the whole way through. I just beat the game a few minutes ago, so I figured now would be a good time to give a brief review. Things I liked:
  • The Story
  • The Voice Acting - This was probably my favorite thing about this game. The voice acting was brilliantly done. I wish Niko had a few more quips to shout when shooting, those got kind of repetitive after awhile, but over all. It was excellent.
  • The Shooting Mechanic - This was a problem for me in the previous games, and I thought it worked pretty well in this one.
  • The graphics - Some of the shadows were a bit flickery, but I thought the game looked pretty good as a whole.
  • The multiplayer seems pretty fun. I've only played a few times with friends, but it was pretty cool. I think free mode is my favorite, because you can just fuck around and do whatever you want.
Some things I didnt like:
  • The Driving - If this game drove like Burnout Paradise it would have been MUCH better, and car chases would have actually been fun instead of being an "ugh here we go again". The cars felt like they weighed about 6 pounds, and would flip extremely easily. The desire to go fast was often defeated by the fear of sending a car into a flip/spin frenzy. Motorcycles were probably the worst controlling vehicles in the game. Every time a mission required the use of one (including the last one which took place on sandy beaches, further reducing handling) I would groan.
  • Some of the contextual button presses didn't work very well. I would often have to hit the button 2 or 3 times before Niko would scale a ladder. Also I don't know how many times I accidentally stole a taxi when trying to enter as a passenger.
  • AI/Glitches - There seemed to be several problems with the AI. I died countless times because of people running toward the motorcycle while screaming in fear. Because motorcycles in this game only weigh 2 pounds, this would cause me to flip headfirst into a wall. I saw a lot of animation glitches, like Niko's foot coming out of his pants at some crazy angle and shaking violently. I was doing the last mission today and there was a part where you have to go off a jump. I wasn't going fast enough so I failed the mission, and when I got to shore, instead of getting the restart mission option I got a the call that activates the mission in the first place, Which includes an additional car chase, plus having to manually backtrack.
  • It was kind of annoying getting calls from every single person you meet in the game constantly.
Overall this game is definitely worth playing, and I'd say its the best one in the series. Its pretty fun, and engaging throughout. I don't think it is as good as all the reviewers for major sites have been saying, especially once you've removed the rose colored glasses that come with a big name release like GTA.

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