Kevin C. Wong

April 2020

TV Show - Pennyworth s1 (2019) [+]

Pennyworth is a British tv show based on Batman's butler Alfred Pennyworth. It's set in maybe the late 60's or early 70's. Alfred (Jack Bannon) and his buddies Bazza (Hainsley Lloyd Bennet) and Dave Boy (Ryan Fletcher) have returned from (Vietnam?) and are out of the army. As three former SAS they are looking to start a business as security consultants.

But business does not look good so Alfred and the boys take jobs from Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) and later Martha Kane (Emma Paetz). London is in turmoil as two factions vie for control of government: the ultra-right Raven Society and the very liberal, though no less violent, No Name League. Thomas and Martha represent the No Name League though it quickly becomes obvious that Thomas works for the CIA who is wiling to back whichever side in order to prevent civil war.

Meanwhile there's the home life with Alfred's father, Arthur (Ian Puleston-Davies) who works as a butler, and housewife mom Mary (Dorothy Atkinson). There's a love interest, Esme (Emma Corrin), and various villains/allies like Bet Sykes (Paloma Faith), a top Raven Society agent, and local crime lord John Ripper (Danny Webb).

The show has a bit of punk feel at times because of the background music. It kind of reminds me of Sherlock, though it's more in tone and Britishness than topic. There's a season long plot and the ten episodes are fairly serial. The characters are interesting and I was entertained throughout. Overall a pretty good show.

Instacart [/]

Instacart is a gig-economy delivery service. Anybody can sign up to work for Instacart. They get orders parceled to them, do the shopping, and deliver the order to the customer. It's pretty much just grocery stores.

Steph has had a couple of orders delivered to me and that went fine. I placed my own order yesterday and kind of neat how many updates you get via the app. If they don't find an item you can select a replacement real time. You can also text chat with the shopper, they can send you pictures, etc. And then you get updates of delivery time.

They only had two of the four items at Costco. She did leave the receipt with me so we can calculate Instacart's markup.

Tilapia fillets, $13.45 == 16.39
Chicken tenders, $15.99 == $26.89

The second one was a replacement item which I said ok. But I didn't go through Instacart replacement system so they still charged me for original item which is much more expensive. So it looks like a 22% markup based on the first item.

There was also a $9 delivery fee, 15% tip of $6.50 (you can set tip percentage at the start of the order, default is 5%), and service fee of $2.15.

The total was $60.92 for an order that cost $13.45 + $15.99 = $29.44. I ended up paying over twice as much for a small order.

Hmm, so maybe not that great for small orders. And yet I don't want to make someone buy multiple bags of groceries. I don't know how I feel about using this service again.

Spot Reviews 04/24/2020

Amici's Pizzeria [/] I had the new haven white clam and amici's combo. I remember their pizzas being super greasy but now they're like normal greasy. I miss that delicious grease.

Safeway Grocery Pickup [/] I wrote a bit about my experience with the local Safeway. Less than a great experience because they are resource starved. Will try delivery next time.

Adult Protective Face Mask from SttchdByAlizee [/] $20 handmade face mask. Ships quickly. Not medical grade but the point is to catch your outgoing breadth not keep out all outside contaminants. Seems to be good cloth, elastic bands that go over your ears, sewn in copper wire that goes below your chin to keep the mask from riding up your chin.

Movie - A Quiet Place (2018) [+]

A Quiet Place (2018) is a horror/thriller set a couple of years after the apocalypse. Blind monsters that hunt by sound have wiped out humanity. We follow one lone family as they go about their lives in total silence:

  • father Lee (John Krasinski)
  • mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt)
  • early teenage daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds)
  • about 10-year old son Marcus (Noah Jupe)

Like any family there are tensions, especially between Lee and Regan over what happened to the youngest daughter, killed a year ago. Meanwhile Evelyn is pregnant and Lee tries to find a way to fight the monsters.

The third act starts as Evelyn's water breaks, she steps on a nail and makes some noise attracting one of the monsters to the country home they live in. Lee and Marcus are gone fishing and Regan is sulking probably half a mile away. It's a last half hour of quiet terror...

This is a very well done movie. If anything it's more terrifying when there is no talking or screaming, with only the background music and camera shots to ramp up the tension. Recommended.

ViDL for Mac (2020) [+]

ViDL for Mac is basically a nice UI in front of ViDL (youtube-dl). I use it to download Twitch videos when the videos are only for subscribers. First time you try it it'll ask for your Twitch user and password (actually launches a Webkit page to show login screen) and after that it'll automatically use it (so it's not for circumventing security, you actually have to be subscribed to the channel).

Pretty simple to use. Copy the URL, click on Find, then select the one entry and Download. It downloads the highest quality version it finds and you can't even set the destination file name. It does the "download thousands of little chunks and merge them into a final file" which all ffmpeg downloaders do.

I still use 4K when I can because you can choose which video quality to download (or even just audio if available). You can set destination file name and it downloads as one continuous connection. But when I need to login I use ViDL and it works fine. Mind you 4k Video Downloader is not free so if I did it over again I'd only use ViDL.

Spot Reviews 04/17/2020

Trader Joe's Greek Spanakopita [+] Spinach and cheese pie. 350 degrees for 35 minutes and it comes out pretty good with flaky crust and tasty insides. A bit high calorie.

iOS Game - TFT: Team Fight Tactics [/] A tactical combat game using League of Legend characters. Start with 8 players. Draft your primary hero, buy from a selection of underlings, set up your squad and let them automatically battle another squad. You get points based on how well you did in the round and use them to level up underlings, buy new ones, and use duplicates to upgrade underlings to more powerful versions. On to next round and eventually players start dropping out from total damage until there is one player left.

Since it's a real-time game with other real people there is a timer for all phases which I intensely dislike. I don't like being hurried as I try to figure out what to buy, what to upgrade and how to setup my squad for the next fight. But the game does look pretty and it's supposed to be fairly balanced and has good tactical depth.

Podcast - Only the Parts You Need: A GURPS Podcast (2019) [/] Five episodes and it's been almost 8 months since the last one so it might be dead. Each episode goes into detail about specific GURPS rules or examples. It is maybe too detailed and unfortunately the host's Spanish (?) accent makes it a chore to listen. But this is one of the very few GURPS rules and GMing podcasts rather than actual play podcasts.

Apple TV+ - Snoopy in Space (2019) [+]

Snoopy in Space is a series of 12 8-minute short cartoons based on the Peanuts characters. Snoopy and Woodstock finagle themselves into NASA's astronaut program, undergo training, do a space mission with a spacewalk, then do a moon mission before returning home.

It seems to have the typical Peanuts humor which I don't find that funny because it's humor for kids. But I still found it interesting because it's fairly educational. There's a computer character that explains the various things astronauts do in training and the Peanuts characters also do soliloquies about various aspects of space and space travel.

So in the end it's like 90 minutes in short enough bursts to keep kids and adults entertained. Another quality Apple TV+ program.

Apple Arcade - Overland (2019) [/]

Overland is a turn-based tactical survival game. You start with one person, a car and some gas, trying to make your way from the East Coast to the West. Between scenes you get a choice of one to three destinations. Each is a certain distance away (using gas) and each has a hint of contents (e.g. people, equipment, gas).

When you arrive at a destination it switches to a turn-based 10x10 isometric arena. Wander around looting or interacting with people (either to trade or to invite them into your party). There are always monsters, of which I saw a small one (one hit to kill) and a big one (two hits to kill). Monsters are not really that stuff but making noise (such as when you kill one) attracts more monsters. Kill one and two or three replace him so violence is a short term stall.

Each person can carry one item and has like two hit points. Your first person has a backpack that can hold an item and the starting car can hold three people and one item. Items I saw are:

stick - does one hit and breaks
pipe - does one hit but doesn't break
first aid kit - heals one hit
rock - can be thrown for one hit
gas can - with 1 to 5 gallons of gas
flower pot with flowers - for morale?

I played a couple of times. It's an unforgiving game and if you don't have a good start it's hard to get far. Actually, I found it a bit too hard and frustrating so I stopped playing. But otherwise it's a neat simple rogue-like.

Spot Reviews 04/10/2020

Movie - X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) [/] During a rescue of a failed space shuttle mission Jean Grey/Phoenix (Sophie Turner) absorbs a mysterious energy that vastly increases her powers which causes her to realize that Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) has been lying about how she came to his school. She searches for answers, hooks up with the alien Vuk (Jessica Chastain) who really wants to steal the Phoenix powers, and battles the X-Men and Magneto (Michael Fassbender)... Like the rest of the current incarnation of the films, Dark Phoenix lacks something. Even though it has lots of CGI and a big story it is not as impressive as other big budget blockbuster type movies.

Trader Joe's Channa Masala [/] Chickpeas in an onion and tomato sauce. I don't like chickpeas (though made into paste like humus they're not bad) but in this package the sauce makes it edible with some rice.

Apple Arcade - Down in Bermuda (2019) [-] Yak & Co. followed up the excellent Agent A with a less stellar puzzle game. It's isometric view, though you can pinch to zoom in and use two fingers to rotate. There are some puzzles but I found it tedious panning/rotating the view and tapping everything in order to find all the hidden orbs. I quickly tired of it.

Movie - Crawl (2019) [+]

Crawl is a monster movie of woman vs giant alligators. During a hurricane co-ed Haley (Kaya Scodelario) drives to check on her father Dave (Barry Pepper). She finds him in the crawlspace of the huge family house, injured by a giant alligator which almost gets Haley. As the hurricane goes on the crawl space fills with water. Haley and her father have to find a way out past the gators, who eat everyone who happens by that could help them.

I wasn't expecting much but it turned out to be an entertaining thriller. Although there have been giant alligator monster movies in this one the gators are not impossibly giant, just large adults. Also the crawl spaces of a house is an unusual arena. Scodelario and Pepper are good in their roles and although you can go in assuming the lead survives it could be with grievous injuries.

Anyways, it's worth watching.

iOS Game - Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise (2015) [+]

Agent A is a puzzle game. Each room is a static picture where you tap to get closer and examine an object (and if it's not a significant object it'll give you a message so everything you can examine is important). Double tap to move back to previous room and the navigation works well.

Many puzzles are of the "find an item and use it here" variety. Other puzzles are you have to set knobs correctly (e.g. a series of numbers/symbols/colors or a pattern) and the solution, or parts of the solution, are scattered in other places. There are a few standalone puzzles (e.g. one where you have to slide a block from one side to the other moving other blocks out of the way) but mostly it's one of the previous two.

It has pretty graphics and some amount of voice acting for the two NPC characters. Dialog is a bit cheesy and since the puzzles are not that complex I guess this game is aimed at a younger audience.

My 2016 review of Agent A. Back then there were only three chapters done and I found it a fun game. I replayed this again from the beginning and after 3-1/2 years I still new most of the solutions, though still had to pay attention to find all the hidden objects to advance.

Chapter 4 and 5 are a big new area though I like that you have to return to the house of chapters 1-2 to solve a couple of puzzles.

Overall it's still a very entertaining experience.

Spot Reviews

Trader Joe's Palak Paneer [+] Sort of like creamed spinach sauce with little chunks of cheese. Microwave for a few minutes, serve over brown rice and it's delicious.

iOS Game - Crossy Road [/] Endless Frogger except you're a chicken. Kind of amusing though I couldn't get used to the UI (tapping most forward, swipe to move in other directions including forward). Has in-apps for different characters you can play.

iOS Game - Raid: Shadow Legends [-] Free to play fantasy non-tactical combat game. Control a team of heroes. When a hero goes choose attack (special attacks need to recharge) and target. Collect items and there are skill trees. Nice graphics and voice acting but run-of-the-mill game play. [Addendum: After watching a long RSL stream with explanations I'm giving this game another try and it's ok so far.]

Apple TV+ - Dickinson (2019) [+]

Dickinson is a half hour comedy about Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld). In real life Dickinson was a prolific poet but hid almost all of them and they were only found after her death. The show is set in Amherst, Massachusetts, mid 19th century I guess about a decade before American Civil War.

Each episode is themed around one of Dickinson's poems. Emily is an eccentric young woman (for that time) and deals with her staid family, though they actually are fairly eccentric compared to today:

  • Father Edward Dickinson (Toby Huss) - aspiring politician and voice of conservatism. Swings from indulging Emily and wishing she were more traditional.
  • Mother Emily Norcross Dickinson (Jane Krakowski) - ultra uber housewife who doesn't know what to do with free time or having fun.
  • Brother Austin Dickinson (Adrian Enscoe) - The older brother destined to follow in the family business (lawyers) but in the home kind of lives in Emily's shadow.
  • Sister Lavinia Dickinson (Anna Baryshnikov) - Filled with romance, wanting to fall in love like the stories she reads. And yet closer to following mom's footsteps than Emily.

There's also Sue Gilbert (Ella Hunt), Emily's best friend and lover (in the old way of they're in love with each other). But Sue's family is dead, she's poor, and her best prospect is marrying Austin.

The cool thing about the show is setting it in the past but everyone speaks and has rather modern sensitivities. So it turns it from a boring period piece to something closer to Hamilton the musical (I imagine). Overall it's another good Apple TV+ show.