Kevin C. Wong

April 2021

Spot Reviews 04/30/21

Movie - The Last Winter (2007) [/] The members of an Alaskan oil exploration team start going mad. Or is there some creature responsible? Good psychological horror story in a frozen wasteland but the ending is a bit too Resident Evil. With Ron Perlman and Connie Britton.

iOS App - Xfinity [-] I used this to activate my new modem but otherwise it's a very basic app for managing your Xfinity account and not even iPad native. I'd rather use the web site.

Pringles (Original) [+] Pringles are like fried dried potatoes shaped into identical curved slices. Kind of like potato chips but maybe more like potato crisps because they're not really oily. Definitely good as a change of pace to regular potato chips.

TV Show - JAG Season 1 (1995) [+]

JAG is one of my favorite TV series. I recently rewatched season 1 and it still mostly hold up. Navy lawyers Lt Commander Harmon Rabb (David James Elliott) and Lieutenant JG Meg Austin (Tracey Needham) are sent everywhere to investigate and sometimes do court cases. Lots of good sets and reuse of Paramount Movies film footage made for cool military scenes.

The 2-hour pilot had Rabb partner with Lieutenant Caitlin Pike (Andrea Parker) and they had a more flirty relationship. Pike returned for a couple of episodes and it was great. With Austin there was a little flirty-ness but a lot more toned down. The last episode is a bit weird because it's a cliffhanger and then the show moved to CBS and they recast Rabb's partner so the episode is never resolved on-screen.

Comparatively, I did watch three episodes of season two (not the first three because Paramount+ only has about half of season two for viewing) and that first CBS season is pretty scuffed. More real-world locations I guess because no military sets in the budget.

Anyway, JAG Season One is still entertaining.

iOS App - Hush (2021) [+]

Hush is a simple app (Safari extension) that blocks requests "to accept cookies or privacy invasive tracking", i.e. the requests web sites added to comply with EU and California privacy laws. I'm not sure if that means that you are accepting those trackers or you're not or maybe it doesn't change whatever the settings are for a web site. I guess if you're like me, who tends to dismiss that privacy dialog without bothering to look at how to change/set settings, then this is a perfect app.

Spot Reviews 04/23/21

Incent [/] This is a rewards platform. While watching a live channel viewers will see the occasional Incent QR code. Use an app to scan the code and you get a bit of Incent crypto. Once you have $10 worth you can trade it in for other crypto or maybe cash. It's a way for a streamer to keep their audience engaged... I had trouble registering for an account and actually watching the video takes too much attention (I tend to listen to a stream and do other activities). It's an interesting service but not sure if it increases channel engagement vs the costs for the streamer.

Kirkland Premium Chunk Chicken Breast [/] Costco canned chicken chunks. It's cooked, a bit soft, salty. Tastes good enough to eat in a pinch if you need some meat, though I personally find it's a fairly rare event.

iOS App - Translate (2021) [/] This is an Apple app that translates text you type in or speech you speak. If you type in text it translates to text. Tap the microphone and speak a sentence and it'll both translate to text and speak the sentence. Twelve languages supported (including US and UK English) and for speech it can automatically detect which language and translate to the other which makes it easier to hold a conversation. Pretty neat.

TV Show - Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1 (2020) [+]

Star Trek: Lower Decks is a cartoon comedy series set in the Star Trek post-TNG universe. It centers on the lower decks (i.e. the background characters) of USS Cerritos, itself one of those background second-line starships that does the grunge work of the Federation. For example, the first episode involves second contact with a world which is more about formalizing a treaty than learning about a new culture.

Our four main characters areL

  • Brad (Jack Quaid) - a by-the-book ensign that worships the bridge crew and wants to be just like them.
  • Beckett (Tawny Newsome) - a rule-breaking ensign who parties hard and seems to have been everywhere and done everything.
  • D'Vana (Noël Wells) - an Orion ensign and medtech, very friendly and upbeat.
  • Sam (Eugene Cordero) - a cyborg ensign in engineering who loves Cerritos because there are so many things that need fixing.

The episodes are kind of TNG-setups with TOS-solutions. It does a good job of being Star Trek and referencing lore and is sort of "this is the chaos that goes on behind the scenes to make the bridge crew look good". I found it to be a very funny show.

iOS App - Paramount+ (2021) [-]

CBS app was rebranded as Paramount+ app and I tried the 1-month free trial. I don't remember the CBS app but the current app has a litany of shortcomings:

  • No picture in picture support. I love watching a video while playing a game so this is an important missing feature.
  • On older shows the subtitles are really bad. I guess they use the original close captioning and often it's based on the script no the actual episode. But even for newer shows cc often lags behind the audio.
  • Really bad show descriptions. Like a one sentence description of the show (not episode, the whole show) and nothing about the cast.
  • Can't favorite shows or any way to mark shows for watching later. It does keep track of what episode you are on and where in the episode.
  • For some shows (e.g. JAG) it doesn't have every episode. For JAG after season one it seems like half the episodes are missing. I'm guessing maybe due to copyrighted music.

For just watching shows it's ok so I guess this app compared favorably to a dumb television. But compared to the competition the Paramount+ app definitely hurts the service.

Spot Reviews 04/16/21

TV Show - The Equalizer #1.01-1.04 (2021) [/] Queen Latifah as former CIA black ops agent Robyn McCall who decides to retire and do good for people in hopeless situations. With the help of former Air Force sniper Mel Bayani (Liza Lapira), Mel's husband, computer whiz Harry (Adam Holdberg), and perhaps ally perhaps hunter NYPD detective Marcus Dante (Tory Kittles) she helps out African-American downtrodden against rapacious rich white men. I mean, it's actually interesting enough that I watched a few episodes and mostly because Queen Latifah being a badass is something great to see.

Twitch - TriciaIsABirdy [+] "PRO chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu Tokyo in Classical French and Traditional Japanese Washoku Cusine. Previously a chef at 2 Michelin starred restaurant and have medals from the Japanese government for authentic Japanese cuisine. Come learn how to cook!" That seems to be an accurate description. I've only been to her channel once after a raid. She was preparing a Korean dish and she was talking to her viewers and smoothly switched to greeting the raiders and introducing herself then just went off for an hour with little stories and jokes before I had to leave. Definitely a memorable raid.

iOS App - FCC Speed Test [/] This app has been around for years but I guess because of previous administration it stopped being promoted. I read a news story that FCC was encouraging people to use this app again so they can get metrics. It measures upload and download bandwidths, latency, jitter, packet loss. Keeps a history with location. You can limit mobile data usage. Kind of basic interface but more useful than other speed tests I've used.

TV Show - Star Trek: Picard s1 (2020 [/]

Star Trek: Picard is set a couple of decades after the last movie. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is retired and terminally ill when a young woman, Dahj (Isa Briones), finds him. Dahj is being hunted and it turns out she's an android made from Data's memory core (Brent Spiner reprises data in a few flashbacks and dream sequences as well as heartfelt goodbye scene in the last episode).

Picard can't prevent her death at the hands of Romulan Tal Shi'ar. But he resolves to try to save Dahj's identical sister Soji. To do that he hires a ship and recruits a team to help him...

Season one is a 10-episode arc about an AI threat to the galaxy, how the Tal Shi'ar is trying to save the galaxy by killing all androids, and how Picard tries to save one woman and finally put to rest his guilt over Data. You get some cool guest stars: Jeri Ryan as a frontier ranger Seven of Nine; Jonathan Frakes and Marina Syrtis as Riker and Troi, retired and happily married with a daughter; Brent Spiner as Data and Dr Soon's son Altan Inigo.

It's a good series though maybe a bit too dependent on bringing back former Star Trek actors.

Computer Game - Ronin (2015) [/]

Ronin is a modern day side-scrolling stealth ninja game with turn-based combat. You have a katana, have to hack computer terminals, kill all the guards, don't kill innocents, and eventually kill the five people that (I'm guessing) betrayed your father.

Controls are WASD for movement. Left mouse lets you choose where to jump with an arcing path animation so you know your exact path (and I think it's red towards the end if the jump is going to take longer than a turn). Right mouse + scroll to pan the camera and see the rest of the level.

Combat starts as soon as the bad guys are aware of you, so sneaking around in the dark and killing people stealthily is kind of doable but most of the time you have to alert the guards (i.e. there is no way to enter a room without them seeing you). A lot of times it's jump on a guard to knock them down then a second move to kill them. Meanwhile you can see red lines where each guard is shooting next turn (they're all aiming at you) so sometimes you can't kill a knocked down guard and have to go knock over someone else (it takes a guard 3 turns to get up).

As you get deeper into the game there are different bad guys. Armored samurai that does a straight line to you (covering a distance far more than you can move in a turn), though sometimes you can get him to charge right out a high rise window (normal bad guys for the most part don't move once a fight starts). I also saw a submachine gunner bad guy but effectively seems about the same as a normal bad guy.

In combat control is a bit fiddly. I got stuck in a level because it's hard to swing into a building through a window. Also the game crashed if a samurai killed you and there are no saves. When you start the game and continue it's at the start of a level. It does checkpoint as you do a level so if you die you go back to the end of the last fight or other significant event (and out of combat mode).

It's a Windows game and I couldn't get it to run on CrossOver with Steam installed. The GOG version is 32-bit but ran ok on my Mac mini (except the aforementioned crashing bug).

Overall it's a nice action game though perhaps trying to be a bit too cute with the turn-based combat.

Spot Reviews 04/09/21

TV Show - Clarice #1.01 (2021) [] Taking place a year after Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds) is assigned to a special anti-serial killer task force. While she copes with PTSD she uncovers a possibly season-long conspiracy. Seems ok.

Progresso Split Pea with Ham Soup [/] Fairly tasty soup with carrots and potatoes. Liquid enough to eat straight out of the can (I'd say below average compared to other soups) though heating it up is obviously better. Relatively creamy once heated up.

Drāno Max Gel [/] I can't tell if one product works better than another. I had one very slow drain sink and one slow drain sink -- both from hair, shaving and probably mold. Two applications on the very slow and one on the slow cleared them both up. I'm assuming it kind of dissolves the outer layer of gunk which is why you want multiple applications (with hot water flush in between).

TV Show - Star Trek: Discovery s2 and s3 (2019-20) [/]

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 (2019) and Season 3 (2020) were good but not as good as Season 1.

In Season 2 Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) takes temporary command while USS Enterprise is undergoing refits (and there's even an episode where we return to Talos IV). The season arc is the mystery of the Red Angel, a mysterious being trying to prevent an apocalyptic future from happening. Spock (Ethan Peck) finally makes an appearance and joins the crew for the second half, and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) manages to repair their relationship.

In Season 3 USS Discovery ends up 900 years in the future after having saved the universe. But it's a future after a catastrophe destroyed almost all the dilithium in the galaxy. The Federation is a minor power after all the major worlds (Earth, Vulcan, Trill, etc) withdrew. Michael Burnham and USS Discovery spend half the season finding the remnants of the Federation and the second half finally finding how The Burn happened.

The plots are good and once they get to the future it gets a bit more zany (and deadly). Watching the episodes quickly the melodrama is more apparent. A lot of teary speeches, a lot of Burnham anguish (and other characters also have their angsty moments), a lot of cliffhanger episode endings.

It's a really good series but I think I'll be fine taking a couple years off and catching up again in the future.

Favorite Twitch Channels

Last September's Twitch promotion was 6-month subscriptions at a discount. Now all those subscriptions have run out and it's time to decide what I want to subscribe to. My current favorite Twitch channels, sort of in order:

1. BotezLive - I started watching Twitch with WFM Alexandra Botez and now the channel is her and her younger sister Andrea doing chess and variety. They're zany and have a great chemistry. Chat has way too many people so that's no longer a draw of this channel.

2. akaNemsko - WGM Nemo started out in BotezLive and soon branched off to her own channel. I kind of hung around at first then got made a moderator and had to pay more attention and came to really like this channel. She's very good at chess (Woman Grandmaster) and does League of Legends and Poker. She's pretty honest about her experiences including trying to commit suicide, dropping out of University of Toronto (both have same reasons: trying for a double major for her parents not for herself), and the constant sexual harassment she gets as an online personality. An interesting person to follow.

After the above two it gets a bit rough. Nemo streams every day for 6 to 10 hours which means I don't have much bandwidth for other channels. Still, I do enjoy the following when I can catch them:

3. Neeko - An LoL and beginner chess streamer when she blew up due to her Ok Boomer tiktok video. She's now more variety and just chatting with a weekly cooking stream and sometimes chess for fun. I like Neeko because she's from California and is also fairly honest about her life and she has more of a fight-back-takes-no-shit Mexican girl attitude. She has a busy chat and allows speech I don't particularly care for so her chat is not a draw for this channel.

4. HashtagChess - South African friends WIM Jessie and Rebecca share this channel, mostly streaming separately because they live in different cities and one is more of a morning person and the other more of a night person. Jessie is more humorous and Rebecca tends to do a Marbles segment near the end of her streams (and I love Marbles on Stream).

5. AnnaCramling - Swedish WFM Anna Cramling is one of the peppiest persons on Twitch and her enthusiasm is infectious. She does mostly chess with some other games.

Ironically, because they're European time zone streamers I probably watch Hashtag and Anna Cramling more than US-based streamers because they stream when I'm not busy with BotezLive or Nemo. Neeko tends to stream later and I make more effort to watch her streams because she only streams about three times per week.

Spot Reviews 04/02/21

Fruit Frangipane Tart [/] - Whole Foods didn't have a Fruit Tart so I got this instead. The crust is good. The topping is a bit more solid than I'd like. It's desert-y enough to be satisfying.

Video Game - Outriders (2021) [/] akaNemsko demo'ed this game on her stream. This is a co-op (3 players) third-person science fiction shooter set on a remote colonized world. Someone mentioned it was like Gears of War and I think that's because combat is a lot of being behind cover and popping out to shoot. You have classes with specific skills and you loot things to get better equipment. Looks like an ok game.

macOS - Apple Music app [/] It's vey iOS like which looks nice but unwieldy for someone with thousands of music files. I really miss browser view (which was my standard view). Song view has the same look without the ability to filter quickly down to genre, artist and album. Hopefully that will be re-added in the future. Otherwise it's a music keeper and player and it does it as well as any other app except this one has Apple Music and iTunes Store integration.