Thursday, December 15, 2011

More Rambles: Scientific enthusiasm, and the death of the Space Age

I haven't looked at statistics but I have to think that in this economic downturn more people have been changing majors or just going into scientific (and especially medical) fields, the last bastion of safety in what seems to be a withering, consumer based economy.

And while I believe a good scientific background is important for everyone, I notice that there is a very noticeable lack in enthusiasm for science, with emphasis only on the immediate application of whatever is being studied. While this makes perfect sense (hey, we all needs jobs and paychecks) I feel a bit disheartened that the passion for exploration and discovery, simply for its own sake, seems to be lost.

If anything this passion seems to have been slowly withering away since the death of the Space Age. Maybe it's because the Soviet Union collapsed and now we don't have anyone to compete with; after all, our enemies are depicted and considered to be insane religious radicals, therefore making science something of no concern. Anywhere where there are achievements in science (the Hadron Collider, for example) come from other countries that aren't seen as enemies or threats.

I find this kind of sad, and I sort of wonder sometimes if this speaks in any way to the "American character", wherein competition is used as a way to drive the search for knowledge and discovery. But then...that can't be true, can it?

In relation to my other post about the rise of religious extremism, I do think that that has a very important impact. After all, you can't really learn about science and really feel passion for it if you're raised to think that it's a liberal, athiest conspiracy to destroy God and push evolution on everyone (that said, they do pick and choose which theories they want to accept or deny, so...who knows). Because what this really seems to have caused is a push in learning "simple" applicable sciences while pushing ignorance and disbelief for anything that conflicts with religious politics.

I keep continually depressing myself with these rambling posts of mine :/
A picture that I find oddly relaxing and certainly beautiful:

Randomness: On fashion accessories, specifically pearl earrings

More random crap from me :D I'm on a roll...

I just wanted to ramble on how much I like pearl earrings as a simple fashion statement and way to draw attention.

Far more than any jewelry I think earrings make the rather important "impact" of drawing attention to the face, especially (depending on length), the rather lovely area of the cheekbones down to the jawline. They can really help define the face and draw attention up, which is always really good.

Also, I personally find them less intrusive than other jewelry, and far less likely to break/be lost from normal wear and tear.

My favorite sort are pearl earrings. Most people can't wear giant diamonds (and anyway, that seems a bit gaudy) but pearls have the right amount of subtlety while still maintaining a noticeable amount of shine. Also, they go with absolutely everything and depending on the earring style can easily be dressed up and down, while I wouldn't necessarily say the same of diamonds, gemstones, or beads.

I'll admit, a lot of this comes from the "Girl with a Pearl Earring" painting, book and movie (though this is one of those rare cases where the movie was better than the book, I think). The painting itself is so lovely and simple, with that aforementioned subtle shine and elegance to the pearl. The movie also brings up that it catches the light really well.

I did make an effort to find the largest (without being ridiculous) dangling white pearl earrings I could for relatively cheap. Luckily I found some in Chinatown! They are fake, but they look real, as they are big without being ridiculous. And white goes with everything of course, and all for the awesome low price of $10. Pretty good, if you ask me.
I think a nice pair of dangling white pearl is one of those "fashion necessities", much like the well known "little black dress".


Random, on politics and culture

Just blowing some steam:

I am a bit curious if there is, as some have noted, a substantial rise in the power and fervor of the conservative and religious right.

At some point I'm a bit curious as to how socially liberal Republicans and/or economically conservative people (often, but not always, something along the lines of Libertarianism) feel about this. Unfortunately America is a two party system but I wonder if these people feel underrepresented at all. I certainly don't hear about it, other than Ron Paul supporters. It just seems odd to me that those who are more socially liberal would still be willing to follow Republicans, giving that much of the platform (at least recently) is so incredibly heavy in religious and socially conservative rhetoric.

I know that a lot of people who follow Democrats will often bring up the differences and alienation they may feel from the party (and quite frankly, I think the Democrats are even more varied; with the Republicans it seems to divide on being socially liberal/fiscally conservative vs socially conservative/variance while Democrats are all over the damn place).

Perhaps this is all a result of these uncertain economic times? I definitely think a lot of this can be traced back to 9/11, and all this "extreme" conservative backlash is still a ripple effect of that.

But I also wonder if this is the last frantic attempt at conservative power before the "liberal storm." A lot of the conservatives out there seem to worship the idealized notion of the '50's, where all those damn women and minorities knew their place and the economy worked. However, all that led to the "explosive" events of liberalism and social change in the 60's, so maybe this is something similar? Like the 50's, there has been a slow and steady gain in right (especially for gays), but more importantly just awareness. So while we have taken some steps back perhaps this is just the opening act for more open social change and awareness?

I really, really fucking hope so. Or else I'm screwed. Honestly it seems like just bad luck that I got stuck growing up (or living, really) in one of the more troubled decades America has had to deal with.

Here's a picture to cheer me (and you?) up:

Review: Jack Black Lip Balm

Update: picture :P

I ordered JB lip balm after hearing a lot of good reviews about it.

However, just for some background: I am absolutely addicted to lip moisture. I need it, very badly, and it drives me nuts when my lips are dry. I keep a bunch of lip moisturizers around my house and with me constantly so that I always have something with me. It is a necessity for me.

When I first got it I was a bit disappointed because of how small it was, considering the price. It is obviously far more than I'm used to paying.

However I was pleased to find that it is a very thick consistency, so a little goes a very long way. Add to that the high SPF (25), which for some reason is really rare in lip products, and I think the price is certainly worth it just for these two aspects.

I got the black tea/blackberry flavor just on a whim, I didn't quite know what to pick. However, I'm very pleased I did! The flavor is shockingly true to form. I was surprised to smell and taste a very characteristic black tea bitterness, it isn't bad but it is there. The blackberry was less strong but still very present, especially in smell. They work really well together and if I were to get more I think I'd keep getting this flavor, at least for how unique it is. I wish more companies would make these unusual flavors that actually smell and taste like what they're supposed to be, as opposed to the generic mint/common fruit scents and flavors.

I am very happy to report that this is also extremely moisturizing and it lasts forever. Far more than any lip treatment I've ever had in my life, and that is definitely saying something.

It should be noted that this is rather thick, again, and you can definitely feel it on your lips. While I live for that, others may not like it so much. I think it's fantastic though...

I will definitely keep buying these for now and I can't say enough good about it. I haven't been so pleased with a product for a VERY long time, this is absolutely great, 5/5.

For now, a random image, keeping with the winter/holidays:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A few random hair care discoveries/tips

My hair (along with my skin, but that's another story) tends to have a lot of ups and downs in terms of how it looks. My hair is kind of thick so it often has problems with volume. And of course, when my hair looks all deflated (in conjunction with the darkness of it), it looks greasy, which I hate.

Another upfront: I am prone to dandruff and the itchy, sometimes painful skin that goes along with it. I use dandruff shampoo but honestly, it doesn't do much for me in the long run. You're supposed to leave it on for a while (5+ minutes) but at that point it dries my hair out and that's no good either.

(I'll do a whole separate post later on dry shampoos, which I've been "working on" for forever, but as for now, I've noted some things that tend to help me out.)

I appreciate that vinegar (apple cider vinegar to be exact, the often touted natural cure for dandruff and washing hair) can do so much and maybe this is just me being annoying but I can't stand the damn stuff. I hate it, I detest that smell. Nonetheless I keep a bottle of it in the shower and I have used it. I will note that the smell (thankfully) doesn't seem to stick. However, it doesn't work that well on it's own as my hair felt greasy after using it.

However! I found two solution that worked well for me. I admit that I need to fine tune some of the order in which I do these things but I need to keep working this out and I'll update it if I ever perfect it.
Another thing to note is that I've done this with the assumption that I don't want to wash my hair too often (it messes it up and it's bad for the scalp) and, most importantly, I wash cheap and natural help in this department. Here we go:

1. For dandruff, without frequent washing
I forgot where I hear this tip (probably some ehow site) but lemons are a lifesaver!
They help clean the scalp and fight off the dandruff without drying out the hair.

I started out with a whole lemon. After washing it and cutting it in half I squeezed out all the juice into a cup. In the shower I used some water/vinegar in my hair and did a bit of a scrub with some baking soda. After enduring the stench of the vinegar I poured all the lemon juice (mixed with water) on my hair and then scrubbed it with the lemon itself.

This worked really well. However, one big problem I had was that I ended up with little pieces of lemon flesh (is that the word?) in my hair so it basically looked like someone sneezed onto my scalp. I should have just used half the lemon water as a rinse.

That aside, it worked really well. No dandruff, the itch was gone, and my hair was really clean (with good volume) without the damaging effects of a strong dandruff shampoo.

2. With shampoo
I'm not quite ready to do the "no -poo" method (insert Beavis and Butthead giggles) quite yet. I don't have a steady supply of the necessary ingredients for it and I haven't found the right remedy for me.

So I'm still using regular shampoo (at this time, Target brand shampoo and Head and Shoulders). To try to combat the drying effects, I recently tried rubbing some olive oil onto my scalp and leaving it on for a while before washing with the shampoo. Again, results were great as my hair didn't feel dry and looked shinier after it dried. I'll be doing this from now on.

So a combination of the usual natural ingredients to help beauty and health can always do the trick!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The rest of San Francisco

As said, I saw and did a lot there.  So here is more blabbing about that:

One of the best places of the entire trip was Japantown (which sounds odd to me, "Little Tokyo" sounds better).  This was rather interesting, at least in contrast, because Chinatown was the worst.  I say contrast because I'm far more used to Los Angeles, where Chinatown is great (lots to do, a lot of culture, great places to eat, cheap everything) while the Little Tokyo is relatively barren and expensive.
Quite the opposite here!  The Japantown was full of great, relatively inexpensive places to eat, full of fresh, traditional foods (and, for the cheap among us, some great little grocery stores with more fresh, hard to find and well priced foods).

The shopping in Japantown was even better, since they had some big general stores (they sold household goods, some accessories, cosmetics, toys, paper goods, etc) for really amazing prices.  It was really a "mfw" situation since I wasn't expecting it to be this awesome at all, one store even had everything for $1.50 or less!  The two stores I recommend are "daiso" and "ichi no" something (I forget the name :/).  Definitely the place to stock up on stuff, I regret not having bought more.

 California always has lead warning content signs, and this is the best one ever.  I lol'd for quite a while after seeing this

 But even hilarious signs about birth defects cannot rival this.  I was in quiet awe.

Both of these were taken inside the mall in Japantown, at a Sanrio/San-X, etc kawaii store.

Unfortunately, I did not find the Baby the Stars Shine Bright boutique (and I did look for it).
However, I did go to Angelic Pretty which was (oddly?) located in the downtown area, not Japantown.  It was lovely in there and while the dresses were expensive, as was expected, the accessories were really cute and many of them were rather reasonably priced.  I was also quite pleased to see quite a selection of more classic dresses and looks, rather than a lot of sweet stuff.  The girls at the store were all decked out but not very friendly, none came to help me :/  Still, I couldn't have afforded anything there anyway, so such is life. 

Chinatown, on the other hand, sucked.  It was the usual dirty/spit ridden which, in itself, does not bother me (I'm used to the Los Angeles one and hey, it's all part of the experience).  But what annoyed the hell out of me was how expensive the damn place was!  I was kind of shocked.  My only explanation for it was that much of it had to have been catering to Europeans that wouldn't have found things as expensive as I did.
Aside from that disappointment, there wasn't much to see.  The shops were basically all repeats, with none of the charm and variation the LA ones have (though I won't lie, they sell the same little trinkets in all the LA ones, they are still better/cheaper). 
The food I had was awful but this was my own fault, I went to a place that was relatively empty save for a few white people so I can't blame anyone but myself on that one.  Suffice it to say, if you ever go and a girl is loudly trying to lure you into a $6 buffet DO NOT FOR THE LIFE OF YOU GO, IT IS AWFUL.

Ethnic enclaves (and their wonder and/or disaster) aside, downtown SF was awesome.  A lot of luxury stores and interesting architecture, akin to Los Angeles.  There was a really nice mall there too with a lot of unique places, and a surprisingly nice Old Navy as well, of all places.

There was a famous building (a gallery) designed by Frank Lloyd Wright called the Xanadu Gallery that I really enjoyed.  It was in a relatively small alley near some luxury stores (Louis Vuitton, Chanel, etc).  It displayed/sold a lot of art, books, textiles, and other home goods from around the world, with some emphasis on Asia.  As said, it was very nice inside and we had a really good and relatively long conversation with the guy who worked there (hot Asian guy who was both a tour guide and a security guard).  He said we stopped and looked over things more than most tourists did, he was great.

 A really beautiful wallet (I think) at a nearby store.  I forget which one.

 The crooked "A" really gives it character :P

Ok, randomness:

 An artistic statement on feminism.

 An artistic statement on WTF creepiness.

 Pride flag in Castro.  It was huge!

Castro itself.  I loved this place (the entire "gay area," inb4 "all of SF is gay"), and use it as full proof that gays make everything great.  It was clean, well kept, diverse, and hilariously sexual all at the same time!  Adult stores everywhere, near lovely little restaurants and stores.  There was a great plant store that I wish I had been able to visit, but it was closed :(

There was a nail salon called "Hand Job."  Seriously.  I wish I had both taken a picture and gone to get my nails did, that's awesome.  Another part of me wishes I had photographed/been photographed with (if possible?) those naked guys that hang out in the main square. 

I loved this :)
On the bay cruise we were on top of the boat on a very cold and windy day.  This seagull decided to fly along, above us.  Of course everyone was terrified that it would poop on our heads but it didn't.  Lovely.

San Francisco trip, recommendations, and the passes that are totally worth it

I went to San Francisco this September, and I absolutely loved it.  I found it to be an interesting combination of Southern California (Los Angeles, San Diego) and Portland, Oregon.  In terms of weather it is typically kind of Northwest (a lot of fog, chilly, weather variations, wet, the lot).  The public transport is similar to that of the Northwest, wherein it exists and it works well, but it still plays second fiddle to those with cars; the exception, I'd say, is that the city seems to make the effort to use their older cars and everything is electrical.  Overall, I absolutely loved the public transportation.

The similarities to Southern CA come from the diversity (which trust me, is rather lacking in Oregon), wealth and variation of the area, both in demographics and in shopping/entertainment.  That and a lot of the little stores and set ups just reminded me of downtown L.A.

In short, I love this place to death and I want to live there now.  SO FUCKING MUCH.

I stayed at a hostel called the Adelaide that also runs another nearby hostel (like a block away) called the Dakota.  For the first week or so it was the Adelaide, which I generally liked. It was generally pretty good, other than some class-less cunts I had the misfortune of having to room with a few days into our stay.  But assholes aside, it was great.

As to activities, I should say that these CityPasses are so absolutely worth, I can't emphasize that enough.  They worked as bus passes (for city buses and rail cars) which was a great value, but overall saved us a ton of money since SF is not a cheap place to be, and many of it's sights (that we got entrance for with the passes) are quite expensive.  The city pass itself is $69 per person, but it is all worth it.  For instance, each admission was priced at about $25-30, so if you go to each one you definitely get a good deal.  I'm glad I had these because honestly, had I actually paid for much of what I saw I would have been a bit upset as everything was very expensive and not necessarily as large as what I was used to.

For instance, The California Academy of the Sciences was absolutely awesome, but I admittedly found parts of it to be a bit of a "quick pass through" as compared to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, which is my favorite place on earth.  I will say that this museum was "better" in the regard that it had far more life there, and I really like that.  
But don't get me wrong, it was awesome.
Pictures for proof:
 They recreated a barrier reef (from the Philippines, I believe?).  It was gorgeous.

 This walk around structure was an interior rainforest environment that went over the reef (so you could look down and see the fish, while surrounded by plants and butterflies).  Believe me when I say this was magical, so beautiful.  Also believe me when I say it was authentically rainforest-like, because it was hot and muggy as hell in there. There is a bit of a wait since they only let in a certain number of people at any given time but again, gorgeous. 

 For some reason this picture makes me lol

 Walking under all the fish.  Being in there (and seeing how it was laid out) made me think that a wedding there would be nothing short of spectacular.

 In the rainforest structure, looking down at the fish/people, feeling an overwhelming sense of awe, power and humidity.

 The top of the museum was converted into a biodome, making it eco friendly and efficient.  This place wasn't totally excited but very pleasant, you could go up and feel a nice breeze and see the (admittedly plain) little plants they had up there.  I kind of wish they could let people interact with the plants a bit more (though I can understand why they wouldn't) but more than anything I wish there was a bit more botanical variety.  Still lovely though and it totally reminds me of teletubby land.

 The cool T-rex at the entrance.

One of the best things ever, I have never heard of these cuttlefish and my mind=blown.  So beautiful.

Honestly I can't put up all the pictures that were taken but it was a wonderful, wonderful experience.

Also visited the art museums, they were lovely too.  I won't put up many pictures (copyright issues? also lack of space) but they were, on the whole, very worth it too.
Suffice it to say though, this was the best thing I saw, a little picture card from the visitor comment area.  I loved it.

The Aquarium of the Bay (at Pier 39) was also awesome.  A bit small but so lovely!  In terms of interaction with animals they were also far better than the museum.
 The aquarium also had a walk through tube.  This shot reminded me of The Little Mermaid.
 Some very kick-ass jellyfish.  Being in a dark room, watching them float around so gracefully is really relaxing. 
 The view outside the aquarium, at Pier 39 and the rest of SF.

 The seals that have taken up residence at the Pier/harbor.  They are living the life.

A battleship they had.  There was also a submarine (which I went into):

A WWII submarine, which was cooler than I had initially given it credit for.  It made me very slightly seasick but it was cool to see the very cramped living spaces in there.  The only other person in there was  a Russian guy, lol.

Alcatraz island.  There were boats to this but it wasn't part of the package so I didn't go.  But there was a pass for a ferry boat around the bay and we got pretty close to the island, so much so that I regretted not going!  It looked pretty crowded but very cool.

This may be getting too big so I'll make another entry.
As an aside, this is my TripAdvisor profile, if you want to see some of the reviews I left:

NOTE: All of the pictures and video in here and in the subsequent post were taken by me.   All recommendations and reviews are also fully mine, I wasn't paid for anything.

I think I found my holy grail of games: Left4Dead2

I'll open with this: I'm a casual.  I love games, quite a bit, but I don't really have the time to do it and I find it rather tiring to sit for prolonged periods of times. 

But dayum I love this game.  Of course I've played other things but I consistently keep going back to Left4dead2, for a few reasons:
  • I like the gameplay.  Simple as that. 
  • I like killing "zombies".  While it's quite "easy" to do so as compared to killing things like other people in batttlefield games I find it relaxing to run around and kill things that don't always run around and fight back.  They do fight back at times but I still find the experience rather pleasant. 
Note: It should be said that, like 28 Days Later, the infected in the game are not zombies (as in, they are not the walking dead, they are people infected with a rabies like virus).  I'm going to go out on an asspie limb and note that since they're not the same things. 
  • I like the humor in the second game.  It doesn't have the darkness the first did (though it does hint at it at times, and I find it cool; a good example of that is in the New Orleans map when they find the writing on the wall indicating that someone was killing both infected and normal humans).  I do tend to find the dark atmosphere of the first a bit too boring though, so I like the addition of humor into this game. 
  • The need for total cooperation is something I appreciate for some reason, it's a good way to get to know people (seeing as how there are only four slots open) and working together is crucial to get through the game.  It adds that nice human element that other games lack in their chaos. 
Anyway, I play this on steam that automatically updates everything for me and now that they added the Left4Dead maps I think this is so totally worth getting.  


As a note to my little echo chamber, I updated and added pictures to the past posts that had been lacking pictures.  I will try to keep up with the pictures on this blog, I need to get used to working a camera.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Despite the fact that I probably don't have any followers/readers as of yet, Happy Halloween to my little echo chamber.  It's always been my favorite holiday :3

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Galaxy Rainbow Leggings - Black Milk

Galaxy Rainbow Leggings - Black Milk

Fuck this is awesome.  I love it when science (really, the beauty of nature) is applied to fashion.  Same goes with those beetle earrings.  Maybe I just love it because I'm a science nerd, I don't know. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tortoise Beetle Earrings

Tortoise Beetle Earrings

These are fucking awesome, this entire store is. I want my future dream home full of this sort of stuff D:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rambling Rant: Sanrio and Our Lady of Everything, Hello Kitty

I'm just rambling stuff off my head, this may not be any sort of clear argument/statement here, just saying. 

Growing up I had always gone to the Sanrio Store as a kid, and it was quite possibly my favorite place in the mall, and every time I get the chance I still go to one out of nostalgia/misplaced customer loyalty/Asian desire for cute stuff. 

I'm no expert on the history of this brand so if any of this is wrong please excuse me, but it seems like Hello Kitty, more so than any other Sanrio character, is really everywhere.  However, it's also the form in which it is everywhere that kind of fascinates me. 

I remember as a kid how fascinated I was by how detailed so much (though I must say, not all) Sanrio stuff is.  Even then, I was never impressed by the quality of it because hell yes, it is overpriced.  But that price markup is sort of made up for the fact that Sanrio products were unique and cute in detailed and inexplicably new ways that "normal" Western stuff just wasn't (I'll leave my argument for the fact that Westerners often seem to just not "get" kawaii stuff for another time). 

It seems like the big bread winner now is Hello Kitty on everything, in a super simplistic form, just simple colors and patterns with that expressionless cat plastered on it. 
This type of stuff is also marketed very clearly at younger children, and I wonder how much of a variation this is from Japan, where the targeted age group may not be as young, and where many of the designs for things may be a bit more detailed and intricate than the "cat on simple pattern" formula that seems to have flourished here. 

And I can understand why this would happen.  Cute, kawaii things have a larger market and target audience in Asia, while here it seems to be targeted mostly at young children, no matter how popular it seems to be among teens/young adults/Mariah Carey.  I wonder how well more "Japanese" stuff (for lack of a better phrase) sells in American Sanrio stores as compared to the cheaper, simpler Hello Kitty lines that would sell better among smaller children. 

Blah blah, it seems like what I'm trying to get at is this: Hello Kitty/Sanrio is simplifying itself for the American market by sticking to its main breadwinner, Hello Kitty, and keeping it in super cheap, super simple, "kid friendly" patterns to appease easily impressed kids and their parents who wouldn't drop more money into a more detailed Japanese accessory that was probably aimed at an older audience anyway. 

Part of that bothers me.  I realize there should be a product range for kids, but I think that there is a lot missed in narrowing the product range like that.  First and foremost, a lot of characters are lost out on (and I love me some Keroppi), but it also seems as if there is a general drop in quality in stuff that is already pretty low quality to begin with. 

I have to think this has to do with what is considered acceptable and age appropriate in the West as compared to the East, where cute stuff may be more acceptable for more ages. 

Yeah, I don't know what I'm getting it, it's late...

Review: The Leather Satchel Co.

I got my bag a few days ago and I love it!  Here's the full story:

I had wanted a leather satchel after stumbling upon an image of one by chance (namely, the neon line).  I first stumbled upon the Cambridge Satchel Company and later discovered the Leather Satchel Co. on Amazon while searching for more satchels (I had been in the market for a very, very long time, haha*).  I'm not quite sure which company came first or anything, but since the Leather Satchel Co. had the neon colors that I wanted at a cheaper price I went with them.  (They also offered a guarantee, something that I did not see with the Cambridge, though I didn't necessarily look around for it so I may be wrong).

*I should say, I had been looking around at/for satchels for MONTHS.  I compared the Leather Satchel to the Cambridge to random stuff on ebay and spent months trying to decide what to do because I am indecisive and spineless.

The Leather Satchel Co. sells bags on Amazon but since I wanted a few customizations I worked with them through their site.  I will say, they were always very polite and helpful (even after I sent countless annoying emails full of questions) and answered all my questions fully.

I did run into two problems:

1. Their website seems a bit disorganized.  There are really no links on the first page so I had to do a google search to find the many pages they had up (that were full of pictures and information).  The website itself is great, very detailed and clear, I just wish it were all linked together a bit better!

2. As said, their customer service reps are awesome, but there was a bit of a time wait between emails.  I did have some issue when I had confirmed that I wanted a bag but nothing was sent to me (no invoice or confirmation) for a couple of weeks after that until I sent an email.  So, things may be a bit slow on the email front, but they were very nice.

3. There seems to be a few/quite a few loose thread ends but the stitching itself seems pretty secure.  I guess I'll have to wait and see on this one but I do have the guarantee. 

The bag shipped to me very quickly too!  I did pay for shipping since it came from the UK but on Amazon the bag ships free (though without customizations).  I was really surprised to get it when I did.

My first response upon opening the packaging: "OH HOLY FUCK" (in a good way, it was awesome!).
The bag is crazy, ridiculous bright!  I was a bit worried that it would be a watered down kind of neon but hell no, it is shocking bright.  As they said, pictures do not do it justice, it is really, really bright.

Another surprise: the leather is really nice too!  I had read some reviews on the Cambridge satchels and some said they found the leather rather stiff at first, which I have not found to be of issue.  The leather holds its shape very well, but I have found it to be nice and soft.  This was (after the color) my biggest concern since I really don't like stiff, hard leather but I really like this and I am a sucker for nice, soft leather.

I got the 15 inch because I like to carry a lot of crap around with me and it all fits really well.  I will say that I kind of imagine the smaller ones looking a bit more "stylish" (at least, or especially, for the neon colors) but I'm happy with the size myself.

As for customizations, I got a handle on the top and magnet closures instead of the buckles.  I had read a review (for the Cambridge, I believe, but w/e) that the buckles can be a pain if you want quick access to stuff which is something I need, and the handle is really convenient too.  

When I wore it out to the mall I got tons of compliments, with people literally stopping me to tell me they liked it, to ask where I got it, and to remark on how eye searingly (in a good way) bright the color is.  I can't recall the last time any accessory of mine got this much attention.

So I will say, if you are considering getting one of these, go for it.  I do think it is totally worth it. 

As to how this compares with the Cambridge company, I can't say as I've never touched any of those satchels, but I am very happy with what I have.  If I were richer I'd buy a bunch in different colors but my Western style "poverty" won't let me.

*Note: I wasn't paid for this, I bought it with my own hard earned money.  It cost about $175 or so (for the bag plus customizations and shipping).

UPDATE:  I took some more pictures, and I plan on putting more up as well after this:

 The one above was taken in an aquarium, hence the darkness.  It looked really cool, especially in contrast to the blue and cool toned surroundings.

This is the satchel in natural light.  It is extremely bright.  Other than the red sweater I tried to stick with a dark and neutral clothing palette, the contrast works really well. 

Funny enough, one thing I'm really excited about is what little picture I want to put in the card/ID holder.  I don't just want my name or anything, I want a picture (a neat way to display art on the go, amirite?) but I want to find something that doesn't clash too much with the neon...we'll see!

 Some Issues That Have Arisen: 
It takes a while to give a really good review of things.  
One issue I noticed after I started to use it was that the area where it folds open is already starting to show some wear.  I really hope this doesn't become a major issue because this is something that is definitely worth sending the bag back (for repairs!) for.  I don't use it every single day but I noticed the wear starting after about a week.  I'm not sure how to feel about that.
Another "issue" although far less stressful is that of the little loose threads (of stitching) everywhere.  Not a big deal, but noticeable.  I also wish that the thread itself had been dyed the same color as the satchel as it would have created a more uniform appearance but again, not a big deal.  
There is also some grime/discoloration/I'm not sure in one area of the bag (the upper part of the back) that didn't seem to go after even after cleaning.  I cleaned the bag today and most dirty spots wiped away easily but that area didn't, I'm not sure why.  I will clean it up more soon and report back.  
 Here is a picture of some of the wear that I'm talking about (along with one of those loose threads).