Kevin C. Wong

December 2020

Movie - The Midnight Sky (2020) [-]

The Midnight Sky is a science fiction drama set in 2049. After a global disaster effectively kills off humanity Dr Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney) is left alone at an Arctic research base. Well, not so alone as a young girl, Iris (Caoilinn Springall), was accidentally left behind during the hurried evacuation. Takes a while but the two start to bond.

Meanwhile there is one space mission still active. The space ship Aether is on the way from Jupiter's moon K-23, a habitable planet discovered 30-odd years ago. Aether was sent to determine if it's suitable for habitation and it is and now the five crew are on their way back. But with Earth dead Dr Augustine wants to warn Aether. The communications antenna at his base is not strong enough so he and Iris need to journey 100 km to an automated station that has a more powerful antenna.

On the one hand Augustine and Iris brave the arctic terrain and bad air (whatever it was that killed off everyone is in the air and the contaminated air is working its way to the poles). Meanwhile the crew of Aether have a couple of emergencies to keep them occupied on the way back...

I'm kind of surprised I watched the whole 2-hour movie because it's a rather dull and slow-paced story.

***** SPOILERS *****

he drama seems manufactured. Augustine and Iris loses it's charm half way through the movie once I realize both characters have to die: Augustine is easy because he has terminal cancer and therefore Iris has to be a hallucination (which turns out true) otherwise it'd be a grim ending for her.

The science kind of drove me nuts. Undiscovered habitable planet close to Jupiter. Aether is huge with so much empty internal space for just five people. The amount of time that seems to pass at the base before Augustine decides to go out and meanwhile the base (which had dozens of people requiring multiple large helicopters to take out) seems fully powered with no problems. In the end only two people, a couple, head back to K-23 and that does not seem viable to continue the human race.

Web Site - [+] p1 is the chess site I use and no matter how bad it might be I'd still use it because most Twitch chess streamers I watch are on and most titled chess players play on and has the largest player base (over and

But luckily it's a pretty good chess site. Since it is global you can find opponents at any time day or night. Games run well (it's an html chess client running on your browser communicating with the servers) though since its client side html it can lag in fast games (but most beginners won't see that as they'll be playing longer games). A good computer and good internet connection are important.

We'll review by going through the sections.


  • Messages - a rudimentary email system and you also get notifications here. On your main email you'll often just get an email that says you have a message on and a link to go view the message. I don't particularly like that it's this disjoint.
  • Stats - you have statistics for the various game modes. You can drill down to specific games and replay or analyze them, even your first games (a move record of a chess game takes very little data). You can do queries to help you find specific games and even find games by opening played.
  • Awards - they have game-ification badges for various site achievements like playing your first game or playing a game with a specific opening. I'm not really into these.
  • Profile - a profile that other's see, including a notes section where people can post notes to you. Besides setting your and location you have a blank section where you can put whatever you want (using a rich text editor) and I've seen people put several pages of info about themselves.
  • Membership - free membership you can play games and do some analysis, puzzles and learning courses. Gold ($30/year), Platinum ($50/year) and Diamond ($100/year) memberships unlock more and more features. I did free for a few months then moved to Diamond. Some chess streamers hold tournaments with 1-month membership prizes. There is also a 7-day free trial.
  • Theme - you can change the theme of your chessboard or customize among a selection of boards and pieces. You can't upload your own board or pieces.
  • Settings - there are actually a lot of settings though the defaults work fine. But it's not a super-customizable site.

(to be continued)

Spot Reviews 12/25/20

Trader Joe's Grass Fed Beef Sirloin Roast [/] This comes in a box net weight about a pound. It's sealed but no tray so if you want to heat it in the oven you need to provide a tray (I re-used one from one of the other Trader Joe's meat packages). Comes out pretty good and not dry. It's pre-sliced a bit thin though not quite all the way sometimes. Overall seems worth $11.

Rice-A-Roni Buffalo Chicken [/] This is rice, no vermicelli. "Rice, cayenne red pepper and chicken broth..." It's very mild and not at all spicy to me though it still tastes good.

macOS Utility - Soundflower 2.0b2 [/] This is a MIDI extension that allows you to create an input sound source out of one or more output sound sources. The end result is that you can output the sound from a computer game to the input of Garageband and record it. Rogue Amoeba's Loopback is a professional version of this function but that is $100 and Soundflower is free (open source).

Movie - Work It (2020) [/]

In Work It, high school over-achiever Quinn (Sabrina Carpenter) has her Duke dreams dashed unless she can make it on her school's award-winning dance team. When she fails that she convinces her friend Jasmine (Liza Koshy) to quit the dance team to start their own team based on other teens with dance abilities but not dancers: goth Raven (Bianca Asilo), soccer goalie Chris (Neil Robles), mix-tape god DJ (Nathaniel Scarlette), karate student Robby (Tyler Hutchings) and Indian dancer Priya (Indiana Mehta).

Quinn even gets former school choreographer Jake (Jordan Fisher) to agree to help them if they make it past qualifiers. Not easy because the team is raw and no matter how much Quinn tries she's an indifferent dancer. But the team makes it to the main competition and the close working relationship allows romance to develop between Quinn and Jake. Everything could be ruined though when Quinn's grades fall, her mom (Michelle Buteau) finds out and forbids Quinn from dancing...

This is neither a very original film nor all that unpredictable. I like the dance team -- the characters don't get much screen time but they're distinct and their dance styles are also distinct. I'm not sure Carpenter is a dancer so Quinn's dancing is very natural or more likely Carpenter is good enough to make it look like Quinn is always a beat off from the rest of the team. There are two or three dance numbers which are done well though this is not a musical.

Overall it's a dance-themed comfort film that doesn't push boundaries and relies on Carpenter to carry the load which she does well.

Twitch - Favorite Channels

I've decided to concentrate on five channels because I'm spending too much time on Twitch. All the below are American streamers so in general I can catch all their streams and not get notifications at 0300 in the morning.

BotezLive [+] - My first regularly followed channel. Sisters Alexandra and Andrea Botez play chess and other games. Often troll each other and set up impossible bets. Woman FIDE Master Alexandra is the older and more mature on while Andrea brings a loud voice, constant energy, and a certain charming obliviousness to what's happening on the computer. The Botez sisters recently signed with Envy, an e-sports org, I assume as content creators rather than players.

akaNemsko [+] - Woman Grandmaster Qiyu "Nemo" Zhou was part of BotezLive for a couple of months but she was too popular so branched out to her own channel and is one of the newest stars in the chess category. She streams chess and League of Legends mostly though also players other games (not Among Us because she's an inexpert lier). Has a good rapport with chat and streams almost every day for 6+ hours. Became the first chess streamer to sign with an org and is a content creator for Counter Logic Gaming.

JoeBruin [/] - Joe Lee is a recent graduate of UCLA and is trying to get into medical school (MCAT exams were kind of shut down during COVID-19). He's an expert level chess player, self-taught, and is very good at going over people's games and guessing at what they were thinking at various points so it's quite educational. Joe streams mostly chess but also Fortnite, Valorant, Among Us and other games. He used to have two turtles on cam but set them free to live at the UCLA botanical gardens.

Neeko [/] - Nicole was a fairly small streamer until one of her Tiktoks was posted on Twitter and it went viral. I remember watching that first stream after and constant people following her channel. She's more of a Just Chatting streamer that plays games. She's a content creator for 100 Thieves and does a lot of sponsored streams and charity streams. She's Mexican-American (from California's central valley) and keeps her channel Spanish-friendly, often repeating what she says so people of both languages understand.

Zefcatt [/] - Sara Herman is a chess streamer though also plays other games like Among Us with chat. Her chat is a bit more teenage KEKW than the others. She also has a sibling that started streaming a bit and is often in Sara's chat. Sara plays on unlike the four previous streamers though she will do puzzles and puzzle battles.

Spot Reviews 12/18/20

GURPS WWII: Iron Cross (2002) [/] 128-page supplement for GURPS WWII covering Germany. I think it concentrates more on internal Germany than the various fronts because those are covered in other supplements.

GURPS WWII: Dogfaces (2003) [/] 128-page supplement covering USA with the Pacific and Western fronts.

GURPS WWII: All the King's Men (2004) [/] 128-page supplement covering Britain and the Commonwealth with a focus on North Africa.

Taken together the above three books are the only major combatant big supplement books printed (there is WWII: Red Tide for the Russians, never printed but available on PDF). Other combatants -- France, Italy, Poland, Finland, and Romania -- get smaller 32 to 48 page books. Each book has history usually from WWI to the end of WWII, character creation notes, some new (but less common) equipment and vehicles and adventure and campaign ideas, though the latter is pretty broad and shallow.

Movie - Ava (2020) [+]

Ava (Jessica Chastain) a former drug addict, former US Army spec ops, now an international assassin working for a mysterious organization. Unfortunately she's once again been having doubts about her job, asking victims what they've done to make sure she's assassinating evil people. This is intolerable to the current head of the assassins, Simon (Colin Farrell), who decides to have her be killed accidentally on her next mission or accidentally via another assassin. That puts Simon in conflict with his former mentor and Ava's current handler Duke (John Malkovich).

Meanwhile Ava takes a break and finally returns home to visit her mother Bobbi (Geena Davis), sister Judy (Jess Weixler) and Judy fiancé (and Ava's jilted fiancé) Michael (Common). Ava hasn't been back since she joined the Army, not even for step-dad's funeral but she hated him anyway. It's a strained relationship with her family that she's rarely talked to in years and they have no idea what she really does for a living...

It's an interesting action movie. Delving more into character development and relationships than usual for the genre. As such there are only a few action sequences though they are pretty entertaining. The movie also ends in a bit of a cliffhanger setting up a sequel which I don't really appreciate. But Jessica Chastain kicking ass is way cool so I forgive that.

Food - Trader Joe's Traditional Meatloaf [+]

I'm not one who is into meatloaf since it's not something we ever ate when I was a kid (or even now). I've only had it at restaurants or maybe at a family gathering sort of dinner. Therefore I don't ever crave it and when I see it on the menu I don't think of it as something I want to eat.

Saying the above, Trader Joe's Traditional Meatloaf is really good. It comes kind of vacuum sealed and has a plastic tray. You take the meatloaf out and use the tray to cook it in a microwave or oven -- I used my toaster oven. It has enough grease that it's not dry but it's not greasy. Taste is just fine and the shape holds up well and doesn't fall apart. I'm guessing fairly fresh since expiration date is like a week.

Overall good enough that I specifically went to Trader Joe's to buy some for Christmas dinner but they were out.

Spot Reviews 12/11/20

Food - Rice-a-Roni Chicken & Garlic [/] Rice and vermicelli with a chicken broth and garlic sauce. It's one of the least flavorful Rice-a-Roni's or you can consider it the most neutral. Not my favorite.

Web Site - Typeracer [/] Web-based typing game you play against others. Pretty simple design and execution but fun.

Web Site - Little Big Snake [/] Reminds me of a Flash-based snake game. You can play on your browser or mobile. You're playing in a big world with other people. On browser snake follows your cursor and the game moves fast. And then it has the usual free-to-play accelerators like getting regular rewards and watching ads to get into a game faster.

TV Show - Teenage Bounty Hunters #1.01 to #1.07 (2020) [/]

Teenage Bounty Hunters is a Netflix television show about twin teen sisters Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Angelica Bette Fellini) who, in order to earn money, take up the exciting life of bounty hunting under the somewhat unwilling tutelage of Bowser (Kadeem Hardison).The show showcases the dichotomy of two middle-class suburban, religious, conservative white teens handling a profession outside their known social culture.

There is this part where the teens "talk" to each other and discuss what to do next with basically no time passing, I guess to simulate how twins (even if they are fraternal twins) know what each other is thinking. Both teens are dealing with their boyfriends. Sterling is more religious and group leader while Blair is the rebel liberal who cares about the environment and social issues. Bowser also has relationship issues, attracted to his ex-wife's sister but still having a bit of attraction to his crazy ex-wife.

I watched the first seven of ten episodes. Each has a case they're pursuing though half or more of an episode are the B plots. After six episodes I realized I wasn't really engaged with the show, though the end of that sixth episode made me watch the seventh episode. Overall it's an ok show but doesn't quite stick with me. Nextflix cancelled the show after one season.

Computer Game - Serial Cleaner (2017) [+]

Serial Cleaner is an isometric view stealth game. You are the Cleaner, a contractor hired to clean up after a murder before the police can investigate. In this case though the police are already on site guarding the crime scene and you have to sneak around disposing bodies, picking up evidence and mopping up blood.

It's a keyboard game: arrow keys to move around, A to pick up evidence or hide, S to pick up a body or drop it (making A and S distinct helps since you can drop a body right next to a hiding place and you wouldn't want to accidentally pick it up again instead of hiding), space to show Cleaner vision which is the whole map with real-time guard activity and location of every body, blood splatter, evidence, hiding place, movable object and teleport spaces with links.

Guards move in predictable patterns. They have vision cones which you must avoid. You also make noise while walking or vacuuming and there is a noise diamond around you when you're making noise. If a guard sees you he'll chase after you (rarely, some guards are set to shoot or sound a general alarm) and if you can get out of the vision cone the guard will stop at your last seen location and look around. Mind you in most levels guards move faster than you so getting away really means getting to the nearest hiding space (even if a guard sees you jump into a bush he won't be able to find you).

The main story is 20 levels. You are working for the mob and later a mysterious client who wants you to clean up after a serial killer. As you dump bodies or pick up evidence you emit bits of dialog and in before each level there is a bit of "at home" time where you can pick up news and talk to your mom. The story evolves about you becoming sick of cleaning up after a serial killer and eventually you have to confront the killer and defeat him.

Each level has a bonus item to pick up. There are 10 outfits and 10 bonus missions. The missions are based on movies -- there is one set in a Mos Eisley cantina and one set on the Nostromo (well, kind of in both cases). Further more there are achievements and challenge modes with leader boards, so you can try playing without cleaner vision and see if you can make the leader board for that.

It's not a long game. I'm thinking it took me a few days to do the main story (levels can take a minute or two but you get caught often so have to keep retrying) and one night to do all the bonus missions. It's not a macOS 64-bit binary so I used the Windows version via CrossOver + Steam and it worked fine (though even on idle it uses a lot of CPU). $15 on Steam.

It's a fun game. Each level is a puzzle, mixed with suspense and action. A good combination.

Spot Reviews 12/04/20

Web Site - DecodeChess [/] This is a web site that analyzes your games and tries to explain the why of suggested moves. Most chess engines give you the best two or three lines (next few moves) and maybe there's a rating score but no other explanation. Decode gives you the line but for each move you can expand and see why that move is good or bad (because you can do these other moves or it protects from these enemy moves). Although now the problem may be too much information. Still it's a cool idea. Subscription is $7 per month.

Computer Game - Spellbreak [/] Battle royale game with mages. It does look a lot like Fortnite with magic including airdropping onto an island and a smaller and smaller circles with a surrounding storm but no building. There are six elements and you combine two for specific spell effect. Looks ok.

Movie - Underwater (2020) [/] A mining settlement deep in the Mariana Trench (the deepest point of the oceans) suffers a catastrophe. Six survivors use underwater suits to try to walk to the mining rig six kilometers away but they are beset by undiscovered creatures that live there. It starts off ok but the physics become less and less logical. With Kristen Stewart and TJ Miller.

Movie - Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019) [/]

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil continues the story a few years later. In the interim period the Sleeping Beauty story has spread, painting Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) as the evil witch and Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) as the hero. Because of this Maleficent has become a recluse using her minion Diaval (Sam Riley) to bring her news.

Aurora (Elle Fanning) and Prince Phillip are getting married, uniting the Kingdom of Ulstead with the Moors. Maleficent is invited to a wedding feast where she meets King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). John wants peace. Ingrith is hostile and provoke Maleficent. When Maleficent strikes back King John is stricken with a curse. Maleficent is mortally wounded and goes over a waterfall.

Everyone, including Aurora, believes Maleficent cursed King John. Queen Ingrith is finally ready to implement her master plan: wiping out all the Moorfolk and conquering the Moors. Meanwhile Maleficent wakes up in the hidden city of the fey -- her people long believed to be extinct. She was rescued by their leader Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who wants peace with the humans. Borra (Ed Skrein) leads the war faction, who believe that the only way to save themselves is to wipe out Ulstead, and with Maleficent's magic they think they can pull it off...

This is an ok movie. When I first watched Maleficent I was enamored with the story. When I rewatched Maleficent last month it was an entertaining story but not enthralling. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is likewise entertaining but not a great movie. It has more fairy tale story predictability than Maleficent and trades off further developing Maleficent/Aurora with developing them as independent characters. For a sequel it holds up.