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The Annoying iOS Game Center Banner

2014 August 6
tags: , ,
by Craig

I’d like to submit a complaint about the Game Center banner in iOS. When you load a game in iOS that works with Game Center, a banner slides down from the top of the screen that says, “Welcome to Game Center, [your username].” My argument is that it is too large and hangs around a little too long. Sure, this is a rather nit-picky thing to gripe about, but if you load games often enough, trust me, it will slowly chip away at your tolerance.

A great example of how the banner is super annoying is with one of my favorite games at the moment, called Kingdom Rush. Kingdom Rush has background game music that I prefer to turn off. (I turn off all in-game background music, actually.) The problem, particularly with Kingdom Rush is that the music is re-enabled every time I launch the game. The controls for turning it off are in the upper left corner of the launch screen. When I load the game, the music cranks up and I scramble to turn it off, except I can’t turn it off quickly because of the annoying Game Center banner that is lingering at the top of the screen.

I think that Apple should redesign the banner to take up less space in future versions of the operating system. Moreover, it would be nice to have an option to disable it entirely. I would disable it if I could.

Having said all that, I have an even greater idea for how to handle this. Perhaps they could reprogram it to only enable a (smaller) banner when the phone is silenced. When the phone is not silenced, how about a voice that simply whispers “Game Center” when you launch a game? It would be wispy and fun. Wouldn’t that be much better than the annoying banner? I think so.

iOS Game Center Banner

Mr. Wonderfuls Chicken and Waffles

2014 June 14
by Craig

I don’t know when the chicken and waffles trend started. I’ve always found it a little puzzling. There is an upscale restaurant downtown that sells them. I’ve wanted to try it, but it is often very busy. I found a knockoff version elsewhere in town called Mr. Wonderfuls Chicken and Waffles. The name cracked me up and I had to eat there for my tour of crazy restaurants in town.

I got a take-out order from this hilariously named place last night. The meals that include waffles seem to be priced rather expensively, so I opted for a simple 2-piece chicken meal. The meal came with 2 sides and a roll.

My fried chicken was a little overcooked and a tad dry. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it could have been plumper and moister. It may have been better if I had dined in the restaurant instead of taking it home and having the delay before I started eating.

There were plenty of sides to choose from. I chose cabbage and macaroni & cheese. Both sides were delicious, particularly the mac & cheese, which I must say was truly excellent. Seriously, if you eat there, you must order the mac & cheese.

The service was friendly. It took a little long to get my food. I’m sure that varies from day to day. There weren’t many people in the restaurant when I was there, but there may have been orders phoned in ahead of me that I wasn’t aware of. I would eat there again if I happened to be in the area, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

Circus Family Restaurant

2014 June 8
by Craig

The Circus Family Restaurant is an odd place. It’s an old fast-food restaurant in Raleigh. I’m talking really old. Back in the late 90s I ate at the second location in Cary because I thought it would be funny. I joked about the old restaurant back then. The Cary location closed in 2012.

I drove past the Circus on Wake Forest Road recently, and to my surprise it is still in business. I had forgotten all about the place. It looks weathered and run down. I told myself I had to go eat there.

I went to Circus with a friend this week, just for laughs. When I got inside, it was quite warm. It was a very warm evening and inside the restaurant was warm and stuffy. If the air conditioning was on, it was set very high. Everything about the place looked old and dated. A little greasy. I checked the sanitation rating and they have a respectable score.

There are a lot of items on the menu. I ordered a double cheeseburger and onion rings. The food was good. I honestly didn’t expect it to be. The onion rings, in particular, were great. My burger could have used a little more lettuce, but overall, it was really good. I heard that they serve good shakes, but I didn’t order ice cream.

Circus doesn’t get a lot of business. My friend and I were the only people in the restaurant for more than a half-hour. Only a handful of customers came the whole time we were there. They have a drive-thru, but I only saw one car drive around. Perhaps it was just a slow night. Otherwise, I don’t know how they survive.

Circus doesn’t look like much, but I was pleased with the food. I would eat there again. The staff in the restaurant was very friendly on my visit. The building could use some remodeling, but maybe that run down look and feel is part of its charm.

Circus Family Restaurant

Rolling Stones Top List of Highest-Grossing Live Acts

2014 May 31
by Craig

The Rolling Stones topped Billboard’s list of the highest-grossing live acts of the last quarter century, with a whopping $1.56 billion in ticket sales since 1990. Wow! Keep on rocking, Mick and Keith!

Mick Jagger & Keith Richards on stage Shine a Light

Instagram App Feature Requests

2014 May 26
by Craig

I have three app feature requests for the folks over at Instagram. The developers have steadily improved the app since it came out in 2010, but a few potentially convenient options are still absent. As a reference point, as of this writing, the latest version of the Instagram iOS app is 5.0.11.

  1. I want the ability toggle image filters on and off. After I snap a photo, I’m taken to the filter selection screen. I usually tap through the filters to see if any of them enhance my photo in an interesting way. After I scroll past the first few, the “Normal” picture option has moved off the screen. If I want to compare the filtered photo against the original unfiltered photo, I have to scroll the filter list back to the start and tap “Normal.” This has always annoyed me. I want to be able to tap any filter in the list to turn it on, then tap it again to turn it back off, so I can clearly see the difference. Am I the only person who has longed for this? If only one of these three suggestions are implemented, I want it to be this one. Make it so!
  2. Users should be allowed to delete individual comments posted to their photos. If there is a way to do this currently, I am not aware of it. I’ve tried, but haven’t found a way to delete comments. This should have been implemented long ago. Such a feature would be of particular use for popular users and celebrities whose photos garner thousands of comments, some of which can get rather ugly.
  3. Users should be allowed to edit their picture posts/descriptions. If I hastily post a picture and realize that I’ve made an embarrassing typo, I have to delete the picture entirely, upload a new one, and type a new description. I shouldn’t have to do all that. That is just a waste of time, effort, and resources. Facebook began allowing users to edit their status updates a while back, and considering that they own Instagram, I had expected the feature to be added to the app by now.

Movie Review: Birdemic

2014 May 23
by Craig

I was discussing my love of bad movies and a friend recommended that I watch a movie called Birdemic: Shock and Terror. I had not heard of it until that moment. I looked it up and I was intrigued by the description and user comments. I had to watch it. I was warned that the movie was bad, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how bad it actually turned out to be. It is truly awful.

Birdemic is a low-budget 2010 film by James Nguyen about a killer bird attack on a California town. It isn’t entirely clear where the movie is set, at least not that I picked up on. The plot is so weak that it barely even has one. The premise of the movie is that abuse of the environment leads birds to rise up against the human population. Global warming is a strong message throughout the film. In fact, it is mentioned obsessively and repeatedly.

The writing is nothing short of terrible. The majority of things that take place make little or no sense at all. There is almost no reason for any of the things that the actors say or do. Shortly into the movie, I had a feeling that it was written and directed by the same person. I was right. It’s as though James Nguyen wrote the movie in one night, then asked his friends to come and star in it.

At the beginning of the movie, the lead character, Rod, sees a cute girl in a diner and follows her out to speak to her. He tells the girl, Natalie, that they used to go to high school together. From that point forward, the movie becomes a bit of a love story, and follows the couple on their first few (very awkward) dates.

Rod and Natalie are the main characters in the movie. We are supposed to believe that they have a thing for each other, but they have no chemistry whatsoever. Neither of them have a single shred of acting ability. Rod, in particular, is simply terrible. Every word he said is strained and devoid of any feeling or human emotion. It’s like he had been hit in the head or something. I truly believe that there was something wrong with him. His acting in this movie is the single worst acting job I have ever seen. It blew my mind. A caveman reading a teleprompter could have acted circles around this guy.

Countless scenes seemed to be intentionally dragged out to fill time. The opening scene of Rod quietly driving down a winding road went on for more than five solid minutes. I watched it, thinking, “What is happening?!” In fact, half of the movie felt like an extended scene of someone driving somewhere. Throughout the movie, the camera would pan across a scene, moving incredibly slowly. Scenes would linger far too long after every conversation, resulting in bizarre awkward silences.

The movie drags on in slow, boring detail about the couple getting to know each other. It advanced so slowly that it was almost painful to watch at times. The birds do not show up until 47 minutes into the movie! Literally half of the 90-minute movie was over before we saw a bird attack.

When the birds finally do attack, it is sudden and loud. The screech of the birds was annoying to listen to. I had to turn the volume down every time they showed up. On top of their screeching, there was an added sound layer of what sounded like World War II fighter planes. There is no explanation for why that is mixed in.

The visual effects were unbelievably bad. The birds were two-dimensional and overlaid on the screen in such a way that they looked like someone had drawn them in by hand. They did not look like part of the scene by any stretch of the imagination. The birds barely moved, and when they did, it was in a looped and repeated fashion.

One of the funniest scenes was of Rod and Natalie in a bird fight with another couple in a hotel parking lot. They didn’t have any weapons, so they took coat hangers from the hotel closet and stood outside swatting them in the air at the birds. It was clear that the actors didn’t know how bad the special effects would be when they were later added in. The cheesy-looking birds that were drawn in weren’t even placed close to where the actors were looking or swatting. I was laughing out loud at how ridiculous it looked.

Beyond the bird effects, Birdemic is littered with technical problems. The sound jumped up and down throughout the movie. The volume would shoot up and down repeatedly during a single conversation, as though they had filmed the dialogue several times and just spliced random pieces together, haphazardly. There were also complete scenes in total silence, for reasons unknown. The sound editing, or lack of, was horrendous. There was an entire scene of the couple walking on the beach where you couldn’t understand a word they were saying. All you could hear was wind and the sound of the ocean while they were supposedly having an important conversation.

I would be shocked if there was any editing done to the movie in any way. Scenes transitioned from one to the next in such a choppy, poorly timed manner that it made the entire viewing experience difficult to follow and borderline unwatchable. After a conversion would end, the camera would linger for five to ten seconds, then jump straight into the middle of another scene without any attempt at a transition at all.

Dialogue was poorly written and ended abruptly. In one hilarious moment, Rod and Natalie were having conversation with a man in the woods, and after running out of lines, the man suddenly says, “Oh, I think I hear a mountain lion, I’d better go in the house.” What? There weren’t any mountains! I screamed laughing.

I would like to know what type of camera was used to film this movie. I watched the HD version, and the picture looked like it was filmed with an early 1980s camcorder. No attention was given to the lighting, particularly outside, where daytime scenes were blown out from too much sunlight. The amount of sunlight outside would change from moment to moment, making it obvious that they had shot a scene over the course of a few hours, then spliced random bits together.

Birdemic is a truly terrible movie. The movie garnered a mere 1.9 out of 10 user rating on IMDB. Yes, it’s that bad! I laughed out loud at how poorly made it was. I would say that it is probably the second worst movie I have ever seen. I’m glad I watched it, though. It was hilarious in its terribleness. I give it 1 out of 5 stars.

They made a sequel in 2013 called Birdemic 2. I have no idea how they managed to pull a sequel from this pile of crap. I don’t know if I have the will to sit through the second one.

If you want to hear a hilarious tear down of this movie, you must listen to the How Did This Get Made podcast, episode 31. They touch on a lot of the points I have made, and make fun of countless scenes in the movie. Definitely give it a listen. It’s a scream! In fact, the actress who played Natalie actually makes an appearance on the podcast. She tells us that the movie took seven months to film. Astonishing. I could have sworn it was shot in two days.

Birdemic DVD cover