The Last Heist: It’s pretty awful

Watched a movie this morning. One of those straight-to-video-on-demand ones. You can get it for $4 on Amazon, if you like. I’m not going to link to it, because you should save your cash. Buy half a beer instead. Better investment of your time. Silly me, I spent the $4.

It actually has a great premise. Here’s the plot: Heist movie. Bad guys rob a bank to get at a safety deposit box with $100 million in it. Except that one of the people in a bank turns out to be a serial killer… played by Henry Freakin’ Rollins.

Now, that sounds pretty awesome, right? Like Die Hard, but twisted. Well, for a such a great idea, they really turned out one terrible movie.


First, let’s get this out of the way. If you love Henry Rollins, then you’ll find that his performance is very good. He’s actually not in the movie a bunch, which is probably the main problem with it. But when he is on screen, he completely is the whole movie. Best acting in the film, and he’s just playing a guy who is covered in blood, standing perfectly still, and talking a little bit like a very calm crazy-eyed preacher. Not a whole hell of a lot of “range” in his performance is my point.. and still he’s the best in the whole movie. By a mile.

The second best acting in this film is that of the burrito truck guy who has like three lines near the beginning of the movie and is never seen again.

Everybody else: they really, really suck. Like, their performances are easily the worst I’ve ever seen. Stilted, awkward, not delivered as if they’re, you know, in any form of stress. No, because either robbing a place or being held hostage is a totally stress free environment.

The robbers are naturally a diverse cast of men, women, one black guy, etc. Standard. The guy that plays Washington (aka the black guy) actually isn’t half bad. He manages to eek out a bit of stress from the situation, but he just doesn’t have the necessary material to work with here. Not his fault. He’s okay, I’ve seen him before, but I’m darned if I can tell you in what. Probably a CSI episode or something.

But the point is that you actually want Bernard (Henry) to kill them all, partially because they’re stupid and annoying, but mainly so that Henry can get more screen time. Seriously, he has so little screen time that it looks like they shot his scenes over a weekend or two. Given the rest of the movie though, that’s probably true.

In fact, this kind of looks like the type of movie you make when all your budget involves borrowing props from other movies being shot nearby, and using locations where your brother works or your friend has the keys for the place over the weekend.

None of this is helped much by the horrible effects that they used. Muzzle flashes don’t look like that outside of photoshop, guys. Guns don’t fire that way. The ridiculous CGI cartoon like pinging of bullets against the walls that somehow fail to do any damage, even when you’re firing an automatic rifle at what is clearly sheetrock… It’s that bad. And the performances of every single actor shooting any form of weapon here really, truly, showcases that they have never actually shot a gun in their life outside of a Call of Duty game. Nobody really stands up, screams like an idiot, and does a one armed rapid fire spray of bullets. This isn’t a video game, you idiot. Despite your Payday style masks.

Oh, by the way, since the budget clearly couldn’t afford things like blanks for the guns (the gunfire is all just mimed, seriously, it’s that bad, I could go on), so where’d they get a bank to film in? They didn’t, instead it’s a “safety deposit box location” in what appears to be the warehouse district. So, today’s color scheme will be “gray”, and “dark”. Most of it looks filmed inside what looks like disused office space, probably over the weekend.

Any good heist story has twists, and the twists in this particular story number about 8. All of them are easily spotted well in advance, of course, because the script is laughably bad. Arguments between characters seem to exist only to pad out the runtime, which is thankfully short to start with. Every argument makes no sense. Every character is unlikable because of it. Every action taken by the would-be-robbers is stupid in the extreme. None of it makes a damn bit of sense. And every plot element is not only explained, but explained multiple times.

Early on in the movie, they move to a backup plan, which involves opening a hole into an old disused elevator hidden in the building. Fair enough. One guy starts breaking a hole in the wall in a back room.
Later on, we see him continuing to break this hole in sheetrock and bricks.
Later on, somebody asks for his progress on making said hole.
Later on, he has dug said hole, and we discover that voila, there’s an elevator door behind it.
Later on, we see him wander off to the electrical closet to try to get power to it.
Later on, two cops who broke in and are sneaking around find the elevator doors and move on.
Later on, the power comes on, he wanders back, and we get a shot of him pressing the call button to get access to a now working elevator.
Later on, when the bad guy is talking to the corrupt cop, the corrupt cop says something like “so, was your backup plan to use the elevator?” and bad guy says “you know about that?”.
Later on, corrupt cop uses the elevator and we get a shot of him pressing the freakin’ call button.
I mean, at some point, shouldn’t an editor recognize that he’s padding the film out pointlessly? The whole movie is like this, in many ways. The story as filmed would better fit into an episode of a TV show. And not a very good TV show.

Because you’re not going to see this movie, and you shouldn’t, then I feel okay spoiling the ending for you. Henry lives, pretty much everybody else dies. I don’t even consider that a spoiler. He’s clearly the (anti-)hero of the piece, and he’s a crazy serial killer who cuts out people’s eyes. Everybody else is simply so unlikable that you want that guy to win. Which, of course, he does.

Henry, please, go back to making good films. Remember when you had that role in Heat? I know it was a long time ago, but come on. You’ve clearly got the chops to be in good films. We still love you, man. 🙂

Otto Ale

Victory Otto Ale. I approve.

So, this now exists:

In 1987, when we arrived in Bamberg, Germany for the first time, St. Otto was not there to greet two thirsty travelers in a rented Fiat. He’d been dead for 848 years but we were alive, and our recent visit to the Belgian brewery of Orval only fanned the flames of our desire for fermented pleasures. The smoked malt (‘rauch’) beers of this lovely town where St. Otto was once Bishop were our siren song, luring us into deep, exotic flavors that we never before imagined in beer. Three decades later we wondered what smoked malt might add to a Belgian-style dubbel ale. Here is it, an Otto revival of sorts. We hope it helps rejuvenate some of our brain cells that were martyred in Bamberg so long ago. – The Brewmasters of Victory

If anybody in PA would be kind enough to send me some, I’ll gladly give you my mailing address.

Email me.

Voicemail decoding assistance required

Got a call from a blocked number while I was writing the last post. I get a lot of these, but this one left a weird voicemail. Could be an issue with the digital recording or something at the beginning, but still… weird.

Any clues? Feel free to listen online or to download the MP3.

Also, if you remix it into a song, I at least want a mention in the credits. 🙂

Ninja Edit: On the plus side, this is another reason why I love Google Voice. It took me under a minute from getting this weirdness to posting it on the blog. Seriously, Google Voice is awesome.

Tassimo Brewbot Review

I’ve gone through several coffee makers in the past. I long ago learned that drip coffee is unacceptable without copious amounts of creamer or sugar, and so I have now resigned my drip maker to making pots of tea (for use in gallon sized pitchers of sweet tea). And while my personal favorite way to make coffee is using a vacuum brewer, there’s two fundamental problems with it:

  • It’s a pain to do. Despite looking like an awesome chemistry set on the stove (which happens to make coffee), it takes a fair amount of setup, cleaning, etc.
  • You have to make a lot of coffee. Single servings are my preference; I can’t go through a pot a day.

So I had already migrated to the whole “pod” experience. My previous pod coffee maker was a cheap contraption that I probably picked up on Woot sometime in the past. It has a bit of a limited set of features, but it does work and pushes steam/water through a standard sized coffee pod. Beyond that, I wasn’t looking for much.

Then I got this Brewbot. After making a few cups with it, I’ll probably use it more often. But let’s dive into the details.

What is it?

It’s a pod-based hot drink maker. For those not in the know, “pod” coffee is a single serving of coffee grounds which makes just one cup of joe and then can be disposed of. You usually buy the pods in 12 packs or so, make your cups when you want, and then go buy more because, face facts, you’re a caffeine addict.

The Brewbot is basically the same thing, but it is unique in two respects.

First, instead of using the standard pods, it uses “T-Discs“. Normal coffee pods are usually just coffee packaged into a paper covering which is similar to the type of filtering paper you use for normal drip coffee makers. Like a little floppy disc of coffee. T-Discs, however, are these hard plastic shells that surround your coffee grounds. They have an aluminum foil type of seal on the top. When you insert them into the machine and close it, the seal is broken and a hole is punched into which hot water is injected. Your drink comes out the other side.

Second, T-Discs are not necessarily coffee. They have a whole range of hot drinks, from your basic coffee, to various flavors of coffees (cappuccino, latte, espresso, crema), to hot chocolate, as well as assorted teas. The disc itself has a tiny barcode on the top, and the machine has a barcode reader inside of it. The barcode itself tells the machine how to pour the water through the disc (timing, temperature, stuff of that nature, presumably).

Still in the future…

However, that’s about the only unique thing with the machine. And it’s not that unique, even my cheap pod coffee maker has three ways of pouring water, using three different pod holders (each of which makes the machine pour differing amounts of water). Heck, my cheapo one even has a milk frothing wand on the side. Okay, it’s not as easy to use, I grant you. Ease of use is important, and this thing absolutely cannot get any easier to use.

Also, unlike some of their advertising implies, it doesn’t turn into a robot and bring you your coffee. In this respect, their advertising is somewhat disappointing. I mean, come on! We live in an age where we have robots cleaning our floors, when the heck will I get my robot butlers and flying cars!? :D

Details of Operation

Brewbot with my Tivo mug

Brewbot with my Tivo mug

You absolutely cannot make the process any simpler than this. Seriously.

  1. Turn on machine.
  2. Insert T-Disc.
  3. Press button.
  4. Wait for drink.

That’s it. Really.

Okay, so occasionally, you have to refill the tank on the back with water. Even more occasionally, you may need to clean the thing out. And some drinks take more than one disc. But still, it’s as simple as it gets.

Oh, they also sent me a red color kit too. Seems kind of pointless to me, but hey, I guess you can customize it up in this way if you like. Also handy if your cup platform insert breaks. The insert is removable to allow you to put large cups into the unit, such as for lattes. It’s also re-positionable upwards a notch, for using small espresso sized cups.

Initial Setup and Cleaning

View of the single button control panel

View of the single button “control panel”

The first setup is fairly straightforward. You fill the unit with water, insert the special cleaning disc, then let it pour a cup of water through it five times.

The cleaning disc itself fits into a nice compartment for it on the back of the unit, and it is basically just a plastic disc with a hole in it and a barcode on it. All it really does is to tell the unit to pour some water through the thing.

The manual says to use it when you need to run water through it to clean it out, or to remove lime scale buildup from the water using special cleaning fluid you can find for the job. It does specifically state not to use vinegar, which is a common way of cleaning lime build up in some other machines. I can understand why, you’d probably have to flush a lot of water through afterward if you didn’t want vinegar flavored coffee.

Making Various Drinks

The unit they sent me was the Bosch Tassimo T20. It’s the lower end model. The more expensive models have a few extra features like LCD displays, water filtering, chrome, and so forth.

They also sent along two types of drinks: Gevalia Coffee, and Starbucks Cappuccino.

The Gevalia Coffee is straightforward. Insert disc, receive coffee. Quality-wise, I’d rate it as good as any other Gevalia coffee. It’s decent and drinkable. Nothing particularly special to say about it. One handy feature of the machine is that after the initial brewing is done, you can hold the single (and only) button on the machine to force it to pour through more water, allowing you to adjust the amount and strength of your coffee. In practice, what this means is that the initial brew comes out somewhat stronger than you’d expect. Adding a bit more water to lighten it up works well. However, the initial pour is large at a full 8 oz., so you may need a larger cup than your average small coffee mug if you do this.

The Starbucks Cappuccino is an interesting one, because it comes in two separate units.

The first disc is a cream disc, which is noticeably larger than the coffee units, and full of liquid instead of grounds. You insert this into the machine first, and it pours out a frothy milky concoction. After that has finished, you insert the espresso disc, press the button again, and it pours a shot of espresso into the glass. The espresso is very strong and mixes well with the cream, giving you a decent cappuccino. Especially when you consider that start to finish takes only a minute or two. As with the coffee (or any other drink), you can hold down the button after each step to force a larger pour. I tried this with the espresso, but it just watered down the cappuccino, and made it weak. The default amount worked quite well.

Here’s a video I made showing how this cappuccino process works:

Simple enough, really.

Comparison to Others

Comparing this machine to the other two pod machines I have experience with (my no-brand one and the Senseo I gave to my parents for Xmas one year), this one is probably my favorite. However, it has some definite disadvantages as well.


  • It is very quiet. My off-brand one makes one hell of a racket, because of the cheap crappy pump in it. My parents Senseo is fairly quiet as well, but the Tassimo seems quieter.
  • The tank holds about 7-8 servings. Both my cheapo and the Senseo unit only hold around 4. This is a bigger deal than it seems, filling up the tank is annoying when you need your coffee fix.
  • The coffee tastes better. Because of the sealed plastic construction of the T-Discs, no air gets to the grounds. So they don’t really ever go bad. This translates to fresher, highly quality drinks. Both mine and the Senseo use the paper based pods, which do tend to go non-fresh after a while.
  • It’s smaller than it looks. It takes about the same footprint as a normal coffee maker. I do wish it had a undershelf mount, but the need for a water tank sort of rules that out.


  • Barcodes. Though clever, a couple of times when I made the cappuccinos (including in that video above), the barcode reader couldn’t read the milk disc’s barcode. Removing the pod, flattening out the barcode with my thumb, and reinserting it worked fine. So it’s a tad sensitive about that.
  • Cost of unit. The price for the unit ($129 for the one I have) seems a tad on the steep side. It’s really neat, but it’s not that neat. Considering I got my cheapo pod maker for like $20 at one time, and a Senseo can be had for $50, then I think they need to come down a slight amount to be worth it. $80-90 would be more reasonable for the low-end unit. Note: You can get it for $104.99 here: and it comes with two free packs of coffee.
  • Cost of coffee. This is a big one. Looking around on Amazon, I see that I can get relatively decent coffee for my old machines for around 30 cents a pod for basic coffee to 60 cents a pod for the branded stuff. The generic T-discs can be found as low as 45 cents, while the branded ones are at around 90 cents a disc. 30-60 to 45-90 is a bit of a hefty upgrade in price. A full 90 cents for a quality cup of coffee seems a bit high. On the other hand, the coffee is almost as good as you’ll find in a coffee shop, and definitely cheaper than a coffee shop.
  • The discs are made of plastic. Maybe it’s me, but it seems a tad non-green to be making these things for one-use and then tossing them. If they are that type of easily biodegradable plastic, then I have no real problem with it. Perhaps they should advertise that more.


It’s a cool unit, and the ability to buy discs that can make hot chocolate or crema or even chai tea is really cool and clever. The use of barcodes is a neat techie thing, although slightly problematic in practice. The cost of the discs is very high, though this will probably come down as more manufacturers make the units. And anyway, the cost of the discs doesn’t phase me too much, as I’ll probably use it for the more specialty drinks and quality coffees instead of the everyday get-me-loaded-to-the-gills-on-caffeine variety of coffee that I’m used to.

I’ll use the heck out of the thing, for sure. Especially for hot chocolate in the wintertime. I don’t think I’d buy one given the current price of the unit, but if it was only around $80, then I very probably would get one, just for the different types of drinks it can make.

And if you haven’t signed up for the giveaway yet, go over there now. FREE COFFEE.

More information about Tassimo and the Brewbot can be found here:

Twitter: @tassimotaster
Save $25:

Free Coffeemaker Giveaway

I once posted that I don’t accept advertising on my blogs. This is still true. However, I do accept bribes. And free coffee is a damned good way to bribe a techie. :D


Still in the future…

Recently I received a free Brewbot from Tassimo in order to do a review of it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t turn into a robot who brings you your coffee. Color me disappointed.

I will have that review up here by this weekend (update: it’s up now), but in the meantime, they also want me to give one away to somebody. Since I have to have the information to them in time to ship before Xmas, I’m doing the giveaway first.

So, lucky readers, here’s your chance at free coffee.

Leave a comment on this post. One random commenter will be selected on Monday, December 13th. If they respond to emails and give me their mailing address, then they’ll get a free Brewbot. :)

You’ll have to use a real, working, email in your comment for me to be able to email you back and get a mailing address. In the event that the person doesn’t respond within, say, 12 hours, then I’ll pick another person. I can only give away one here, so you have to respond quickly.

Multiple entries will be ignored. Don’t bother trying.

Also, since Tassimo was kind enough to send me free coffee (who doesn’t love coffee? AMIRITE?), here’s some links to their various pages. Follow them.

And here’s a commercial video that sort of accurately describes the product. If you want to think of it as a single serve pod-based coffee maker, then you’re not far wrong.

And read my review on the unit as well.

Bought a new car

Drove up to North Carolina this weekend for the Durham Beer Festival. Somewhere along the way, the transmission in my 2001 Impala decided that it was time to destroy itself, presumably in a fit of angry rage. I presume that it was rage and it was angry from the sounds that came out from the thing about 80% of the way here. I would have honestly never believed that the cruise control could actually cause it to redline the thing, but the proof speaks for itself. Regardless, it was dead-on-my-arrival.

So after some thinking, and talking it over with my dad, I decided that enough was enough. I did love the Impala, but all good things must come to an end. So after 9 years and 74000 miles (I don’t drive much), I traded it in. Got a really good value for it too, especially considering that it probably had negative value given the blown transmission.

Put that money down toward a 2010 Ford Fusion. Used, but only 19000 miles on it, and in excellent condition.

Obligatory pictures:

I like it. The Sync isn’t playing well with the iPhone, but I’ve learned that this may be an iPhone software problem. Maybe I’ll upgrade it soon to solve the issue. Notably: Plugging in the iPhone kills the USB connection on the Sync system entirely. I had to pull and re-insert a fuse to reset the damn thing. No worries though, automotive hacking is one of my older and less-used hobbies. Never had to actually upgrade software in a production car before, but it worked without too much effort. Anyway, the thing works with Bluetooth for now, so as long as I don’t connect it via USB, it’s fine. Bluetooth audio streaming works perfectly well.

So I’ll be driving back to Memphis tomorrow. The triangle is fun, but not really that much fun. I’ll be glad to get back to Memphis. 😉

Twitter Geolocation

Heard of geotagged tweets yet? Not surprised, a lot of my friends seem to have not caught on to it, so I’m writing this in a possibly futile attempt to get them to try it out.

How to add your location to your tweets

1. Turn on Geotagging. To do this, go to your Twitter settings page. Down under the “Location” section is an option to enable geotagging. Turn it on.

Twitter Settings

2. Get a Twitter client that supports Geotagging. These are generally mobile applications. Tweetie 2 for the iPhone added support for it in 2.1. Several other clients support it as well. Find one.

3. Turn it on in your client. How you do this depends on the client, but it can usually be enabled on a per-tweet basis.

Here’s an example of how it works and looks in Tweetie 2 for the iPhone.

First, you type in a new tweet, and pull open the drop down.

Next, you enable the geotag feature, and you'll see a little red pin appear.

You'll see little maps on tweets with locations attached to them.

Click on the map icon for greater detail.

You can do more with your Twitter location too. For example, this website will read your twitter feed and get your latest location, then send it over to Fire Eagle, which is Yahoo’s location service. Fire Eagle can do all sorts of things, but basically it’s just a service that stores your location for other programs to use. So if you want to display your location on your blog, or on Facebook for your friends to see, or anything else you can think of, you can do that, using nothing more than your already existing tweets.

Waze – Free iPhone Directions Application

Playing around this weekend, I discovered a neat and fun little app for the iPhone.

A lot of new apps have came out for the iPhone lately that are based around driving directions. TomTom came out with theirs for $100, and Navigon is another popular one that runs $90. But, if you want to try out something a little different, this one is free.

iPhone image

Waze is a free driving directions app, with a twist. Basically, the maps on it are “incomplete”. That is, they’ve got the map data, but like all maps, the data is inaccurate. So, to get the data to be better, they’re enlisting your help.

How do you help? Simple. You use the app in the car, then drive around. As you do so, the GPS will be reading your location and noting that there is indeed a street there. It makes it kinda fun to confirm streets in this way since a little Pac-Man like figure appears, eating dots on the map where you are driving, and giving you “points”. The points aren’t useful for much, except a ranking system with everybody else using the app, but it’s fun nevertheless.

So what else? Well, obviously it’ll do driving directions. However, when I tried it to get to my friend’s place at Cooper-Young fest this last weekend, it was laughably wrong. It suggested an 8 mile trek through ridiculous parts of town for no reason. I drove there the normal route instead, letting it complain that I was “off route” all the way and listening to the Waze-pacman gathering up the points as he munched his way down the road. However, something odd happened then. On the way back, when I turned it on, it knew that route. Investigating today, I’ve found that it really doesn’t like to route people on routes that haven’t been “confirmed” yet very much. So, since I’d confirmed that route already, it picked it for my way home.

But there’s a bonus to all that. By confirming the route, it’s getting more than street maps. It’s also getting average speeds. So it can use that information to give optimal routes, knowing how fast each street tends to be.

iPhone Event Reporting

You can even more than that though. Along the way, you can report events too.

An event is like an auto accident, or a speed trap. Whenever you see one of these, you can touch the report button and report one quickly. If you’re totally stopped in traffic, then you can also type in a short message (it won’t let you do that while moving), and the message will instantly be sent, where other drivers (and their iPhone’s) can see it. Those drivers will then get routed a different way, possibly saving them some time.

Or, even better, somebody else reports a problem, and you get to save some time.

Downsides to the app: Battery life. Like any other GPS app, it sucks the battery right down. You’ll need a car charger to run the thing. Probably a quality iPhone mount too. It does do landscape mode as well, and hidden down in the options is a “3D mode”, which makes the map lay back and look like the more expensive iPhone driving apps, if you prefer that sort of thing. The 2D map is easier to read, to me.

From what I’m reading, Waze has only been around a month or so, and not many people are using it. As far as I can tell, almost nobody in Memphis is using it, since almost all the roads are unconfirmed. But it would be pretty neat if everybody driving around was sharing data like this, what with Memphis traffic being what it is. I sure wouldn’t mind getting routed around half the crap I see on the streets around here.

If you’ve wanted to try out a driving directions app without spending $100 or so, then you cannot beat free. So I highly recommend it. I’m using it all the time now.