LiPo battery primer

One of the things I’ve had to learn afresh since getting the HPI Bullet is how to manage LiPo (Lithium Polymer) batteries. They are quite a different beast to the old NiCads I was used to.

I’d read a few things about having to condition the batteries and running them in, but it seemed the jury was out as to whether or not that was required. I even got conflicting advice from the store where I bought the car.

I was surprised to find that I was unable to find a “LiPo 101” that wasn’t RC plane-specific, so I wanted to document what I’ve learnt in case it’s of assistance to someone else who’s just starting out with their own LiPo powered RC car — more after the jump.

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Best movies (in 2010)

In putting together my Top 5 album list it got me thinking about the few good movies that I came across this year.  When I was thinking back, there weren’t that many standouts to be honest, which perhaps is in part a reflection of fact I didn’t get to see as many movies as I would have liked this year.  But still, there were some noteworthy additions…

Avatar: the plot for this film was terrible, but just for the imagery and technological marvel alone it gets number one spot for me.  It was the only film that prompted repeat viewings (3 times — all in 3D, once at IMAX).  I don’t know that I want it on DVD as it was in part the immersion into James Cameron’s wonderful 3D world, at cinema scale, that really grabbed me.

Inception: this was such a wonderfully crafted film.  I loved the premise and it was excellently executed.  I’m a fan of Leonardo Di Caprio’s abilities, but despite excellent performances in the past few films I’ve seen him in (The Departed, Blood Diamond, Body of Lies, Shutter Island), his casting has left me a bit out of sorts — for some reason the characters just seemed to have been a misfit, this one included.  However, the strength of performance (across the cast), fantastic script and great execution (the visual effects are mostly very effective as a storytelling device, rather than for the sake of them) really made up for any such misgivings to land this in my top 5.

The King’s Speech: I admittedly only saw this film the other night (a day or two after the new year kicked in), but I figured it worth including in last years’ list as it was released then and I’d only missed it by a few days.  It was great to see a great character driven piece with exceptional performances by all of the headline actors.

The Hurt Locker: another one I was late to get to see (originally released in 2008), I finally got this out on DVD and had the opportunity to see what all the hype was about.  A tremendous film — terrifically shot to provide a real sense of being close to the action/character with great performances across the board, but especially by Jeremy Renner.

The Social Network: I want to preface this one by saying I didn’t actually want to go and see this film due to the subject matter being so close to my profession, but the hype around the director and screenwriter pushed me over the line, and I must admit it was an excellent film — but very much, in my mind, a work of fiction.  The dialogue was fast-paced and witty (though clearly not based in reality).  And for the filmmakers to turn such dry material into such a great piece of cinema deserves due credit.  However, I was left wondering at the end of the film how much was real and how much was “creative license”, especially after hearing on two separate occasions how far from reality Justin Timberlake’s entertaining portrayal of Sean Parker was.  I would also recommend reading Lawrence Lessig’s critique of the meta-story in the film also.

As with my music Top 5, I found myself with two “notable mentions” in this category also:

Tron Legacy: I want to love this film, but I’m not sure I can.  I will see whether it is a grower (I will watch it again on DVD).  I love that we get to continue the previous story which has become such a cult hit.  I loved the visuals.  But it felt a little too heavily derivative of The Matrix in many parts, and I felt it also suffered a little from the same problems of Star Wars Episode I — the plot filling in gaps between fast-paced, high-effects action sequences.  For whatever reason, though, it didn’t resonate with me as a classic.  I read Andy Carvin’s review on NPR and I agree with a lot of what he says as driving the success of the film at the box office.  However, Legacy fails to inspire the same creativity and action that he describes for a new generation, so I think in the long run it will remain relevant mostly for fans of the original.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: we got this out for laughs over the Christmas break (at the recommendation of my hairdresser of all things) and I can’t help but like the film.  It is ridiculous and fun.  It has a unique visual style that I find quite appealing.  It’s the sort of film I feel like I shouldn’t like, but I did.  Your mileage may vary. (Update: Scott Zoller Seitz’s take over at Slate was an interesting read…)

Top 5 albums (in 2010)

I’m a couple of days late, but was just thinking about my fave albums of 2010 and thought it would be nice to document them here for future reference.  This “Top 5” list is of music that I acquired during 2010 (not necessarily released this year) and is in a loose order, though it’s hard to distinguish some of them.

Bon Iver — For Emma, Forever Ago: I’m very late to this particular album, but since picking it up earlier this year, this album has resonated with me in a very deep way.  Absolutely beautiful and spellbinding.  Some may find it a bit depressing, personally I find it quite calming and uplifting.

Fionn Regan — The End of History: I first heard this album at a friend’s party, and managed to pick it up dirt cheap (for $2!) at a record sale shortly after.  The rawness of the acoustic arrangements appeals to me much more than his most current album.  Some lovely turns of phrase and atmospherically charged moments.

Brian Borcherdt — Torches (Side 2004/05): I downloaded this album for free from Brian’s site based on the recommendation of a friend and was immediately taken by it.  Another mellow acoustic set (what is it with me and mellow acoustic male singers this year?) — simple arrangements, but a lovely mood.  I’m a much bigger fan of Side 2004/05 than the second album from the sessions, and I’ve since bought his previous album on iTunes with much the same feeling.

Land of Talk — Cloak and Cipher: Ang and I have become fans of this band since getting their previous album Some are Lakes a little while back, and this new album certainly didn’t disappoint.  A much more polished affair than Some are Lakes, but still retaining the essence and energy of what I suspect is a great live band.

The Mercury Program — A Data Learn the Language: I found this band after hearing them on the cafe speakers at Berkelouw Newtown.  I chased them up on iTunes and grabbed this album (released in 2002) and loved it.  Very reminiscent of Pivot (now PVT), though pre-dating Pivot’s debut, and Tortoise.  Another great atmospheric instrumental, guitar melody-driven album to add to the collection.

There were also two “notable mentions” that came up for me when compiling the list:

Arcade Fire — The Suburbs: I didn’t really get into this band with their previous albums, but I finally caved into the hype and picked this one up after seeing the wonderful Google Maps mashup “video” that accompanied The Wilderness Downtown.  I think that really set the tone as it grounded the songs in my own childhood growing up in a Queensland suburb.  There are a couple of misfires on the album, but the standout tracks like Ready to Start make up for them.

Massive Attack — Heligoland: it’s been a while since I felt Massive Attack hit the mark — this one nearly gets there, but not quite.  It still has some great tracks on it and I hope is a signal of a return to form — really looking forward to the next one.