Kevin C. Wong

February 2021

Spot Reviews 02/26/21

Trader Joe's Tarte au Brie et aux Tomates [/] It's sort of like a very thin pizza with brie cheese and tomatoes. Tastes fine but not as crunchy as it could have been. It says cook at 450 degrees which is the max on my toaster oven. Probably should have used the main oven, though way overkill for a 1-person pizza.

Web Site - Becoming Betty [/] Brenda's blog about Trader Joe's products. It's fairly professional and not affiliated with TJs. I think the reviews are fuller and more positive (i.e. she doesn't feel the need to find a drawback in every product) than other sites.

Documentary Series - Earth At Night In Color (2020) [/] This is a 6-episode half hour nature series narrated by Tom Hiddleston. The big thing is that they use high res night vision cameras and with post-processing you get night, starlit scenes that look like, not full daylight but like an overcast day. Each episode focuses on one nocturnal animal (or insect or bird) and they're pretty well done.

Movie - Apollo 18 (2011) [+]

Apollo 18 is a horror found footage film about a secret Lunar mission. Captain Ben Anderson (Warren Christie) and Commander Nate Walker (Lloyd Owen) land on the moon to setup a new radar but their mission is beset by weird gremlins. Then they find a Russian lunar module from a heretofore unknown mission and later the body of the cosmonaut. The two come to realize that DoD is using them as bait because there is something else on the Moon stalking them...

It's a very low budget film but it's recreating mid 1970's film footage so it actually looks very good. It takes a long time for the monsters to show up but there are little hints and quick skitterrings that run past the camera lens. I think it gets pretty scary in a way that Blair Witch Project kind of did without the nausea (even the moving cameras are strapped on space suits so they don't move around wildly).

Overall I'm impressed with the film and it's suitably scary.

Three Peanuts

The Peanut Shop - Handcooked Virginia Peanuts [+] I bought a 32-oz can of these at Trader Joe's for $10 or $15 a couple years ago. Maybe the best peanuts I've ever had. In fact there's a 20% sale for peanut month so I think I'll buy a couple of cans...

Planters Redskin Spanish Peanuts [+] I love roasted redskin peanuts. The skin is a crackly salty treat. Planters I'm not all that enthused about some of their peanuts but this one is really good.

Signature Farms Roasted Peanuts with Sea Salt [-] Safeway house brand roasted peanuts. I'd say barely roasted and salted (though the latter is fine with me). You get what you pay for.

Spot Reviews 02/19/21

Movie - Good Kisser (2019) [-] A lesbian character drama. Kate (Rachel Paulson) convinces girlfriend Jenna (Kari Alison Hodge) to try a threesome with the mysterious Mia (Julia Eringer). But as the night goes on it turns out Jenna has more in common with Mia than with Kate... Very low budget indie film and for that category it's an ok film.

Annie's Penne & Four Cheese Macaroni & Cheese [+] This one tastes pretty good and is one of the better Mac & Cheese products (although I loved Kraft as a kid now I realize the cheese is maybe too American and the round pasta is easy to overcook).

AyumiLove's Raid: Shadow Legends Guide [+] This is my go-to for Raid info on champions and what equipment and masteries to give them. Ranks champions vs every boss monster. Constantly updated and it seems like a one-man show so props.

Movie - The Outpost (2020) [+]

The Outpost is a movie about the battle of COP Keating in Afghanistan. I've read about the battle in Romesha's book Red Platoon and watched a re-enactment in an episode of Medal of Honor. This film is based on a different book written by journalist Jake Tapper.

The film is a couple of hours long with the last 45 minutes or so being the battle. So more than half the film is introducing the characters and going over the fate of the three previous outpost commanders, which includes a bit about what the platoon was doing in that region.

The battle itself is fairly exciting and well done considering the low budget. You can pretty much tell what's going on and this is not a gory movie so nothing extremely graphic.

Overall it's a well done and entertaining film.

Apple Mail + Microsoft Exchange [-]

My company recently switched to Microsoft Exchange. There is a native macOS client but I'm already using Apple Mail and Calendar and, although our corporate instructions said this does not work well, I decided to keep using my setup switching the backend.

Setup is really simple: go to System Preferences > Internet Accounts and add Exchange. You provide your corporate email address and password and it should login and start working, which for the most part it does.

Apple Calendar integration seems to work fairly well. I use the Exchange web client to create appointments if I need to (which I seldom do and that's why I've never used Apple Calendar itself to create them). You get an email for each event invite and when you accept in Calendar the email goes to the Trash.

Apple Mail integration is less stellar. It could be because I log into and out of VPN a lot so the network connection is not the most stable, but frequently an email only has header info and no contents. The only way I've gotten Apple Mail to reload the email is to go to Exchange web client and move the email out of Inbox and back into Inbox.

The other difficulty is that emails are not deleted on Exchange Server. When I move an email out of Inbox in Apple Mail it's out as far as I can tell, until I go to Exchange web client and see the Inbox has all the emails so far. So then I have to periodically go to Exchange web client to delete all those emails (itself not an easy process because there is no select all emails option).

I guess otherwise Apple Mail works ok. Compared to a simple POP3 or IMAP server though, MS Exchange Server integration is rather crappy and when you can't be better than the ground level competition that is disappointing.

Spot Reviews 02/12/21

Movie - Homefront (2013) [/] Action movie. Former DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Sthatham) retires to a private identity back in his Louisiana hometown and becomes entangled with drug dealer Gator Bodine (James Franco) after his daughter and Bodine's nephew get into a schoolyard fight. It's entertaining enough.

Food - Rice-A-Roni Beef Flavor [/] Beef-flavored foods are usually a bit not-quite-there but taste fine if you don't compare with, say, freshly cooked ground beef. This is no different. Tastes ok but I could use a beef-flavored Ramen packet and it would taste very close. And I guess if you are already eating this with beef why do you need beef-flavored rice since actual beef will flavor it?

Website - Urban Dictionary [/] I moderate a busy Twitch channel and Urban Dictionary is one of the websites I use to look up unfamiliar terms. It's very hit and miss because it's crowdsourced and the crowd is not above meme-ing a bad definition to the top. Still, I have found many obscure insult there but I don't use it as my only source.

Movie Trilogy - The Expendables 1-3 (2010-14) [/]

The Expendables is a 80's style retro-action series about a group of modern-day mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone). Barney lead his small team -- knife thrower Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), big guy Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), the fourth regular Toll Road (Randy Couture), and others that don't quite get full status in all three films -- into missions where there are lots of explosions and high body counts with none of today's action-movie realism.

In the first movie they are up against a South American island dictator backed by a former CIA agent (Eric Roberts). The second movie has them in Eastern Europe trying to stop an arms dealer (Jean-Claude Van Damme) with a cache of refined plutonium. Movie three Barney takes it personally when he's asked to capture a former comrade turned arms dealer (Mel Gibson).

It's an ok throwback series. I guess the appeal is all the 80's movie stars that make it into the film. But personally I think I'd rather watch old 80's action films for this kind of action.

Apple USB SuperDrive [+]

I bought the Twilight 2013 CDROM and had the occasion to take out my Apple USB SuperDrive and plug it in. I bought it at the end of 2016 and rarely use it but it works fine. Mostly I copy CDROM contents to my computer or rip DVDs (not CDs, I haven't bought a CD since way before that). Still works with macOS Catalina and I assume will work with Big Sur.

It works fine with my USB-C MBP with an Apple USB-C to USB-A adapter. Apparently uses too much power for plugging into the USB hub of my Dell 27" monitor (you get a warning saying it needs to be plugged directly because it needs more power).

This is really a relic technology and it's good that it's not built-in to Mac portables. As I said I don't buy music CDs anymore and DVDs rarely. Never got into Blue-Ray and now you can get 4K movies online so I'm glad I never got the Blue-Ray bandwagon. I really expect the SuperDrive to last forever considering how little I use it.

Spot Reviews 02/05/21

Food - Trader Joe's Steamed Chicken Soup Dumplings [/] This is $3 for a package of 6 Xiao Long Bao which you microwave for 2 minutes and ready to eat. It's a dumpling with a bit of soup inside. It is salty and not as good as restaurant cooked but still fairly good considering it's a frozen food.

Movie - Mine (2016) [-] After a failed mission in the desert a Marine sniper (Armie Hammer) and his spotter (Tom Cullen) are caught in a minefield that kills the spotter and leaves the sniper stranded standing on a live mine. As he waits 2-1/2 days for a rescue the sniper has to battle the elements, dog attacks, hallucinations and a climactic firefight... I watched the first bit then started skipping forward through the rest of the movie because it's pretty boring. Cinematography is good and the acting is fine and the plot is ok but it just didn't stick with me.

macOS Utility - Get-It [-] Looking for an alternative youtube-dl UI. This one is Mac-only with a minimal interface. It uses homebrew to install dependent libraries but you click the button and it says "please wait..." and a few minutes later it's done and the download functionality doesn't seem to work. I guess maybe it's optimistic to think a simple UI in front half a dozen utilities is going to work flawlessly... Following the Readme instructions for installing the utilities using CLI seems to work, though once again if something goes wrong it's not apparent what it is and you have to look at a log file.

Movie Trilogy - Star Wars Episodes 1-3 (1999-2005) [/]

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) [/]
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002) [/]
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) [/]

I watched Star Wars episodes 1-3 over the course of a month and realize I've never seen these movies in the theater nor completely until now. The Phantom Menace is the best of the three. New but familiar characters bouncing around familiar locations meeting beings that are three decades older in Star Wars episode 4. By the way, Jar Jar (Ahmed Best) is fine as a character and barely appears in the next two films (though more in Clone Wars).

Attack of the Clones is much less romantic than I expected. There is a bit of Anakin (Hayden Christensen) harboring a decade-long obsession over Padmé (Natalie Portman) and then it's suddenly she's also in love with him and they get married.

I like that the Clone Wars animated series takes place between episode 2 and 3. Once we get to Revenge of the Sith there are several characters that originated in Clone Wars making appearances. The part where the Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has suborned all the clones I guess comes from Clone Wars since it came out of the blue to me. And it's got the nice touches of how the Emperor and Darth Vader got their looks.

Overall though I kind of feel this is the weakest trilogy of the Star Wars saga. Episodes 4-6 were produced first and there's a lot of nostalgia plus they were genre-breaking at the time. Episodes 7-9 are better produced and the stories seem a bit better developed and more epic. And I guess 7-9 are treading new ground whereas 1-3 start from an unknown point but have to end setting up episode 4.

Still, I did enjoy these three films and it's nice covering the back stories that setup the following two trilogies.

Glorious Model O Wireless Mouse [/]

I very occasionally need a two-button mouse for gaming and other activities and the Apple Magic Mouse is horrible at that so I bought a Glorious Model O Wireless because I had a 20% discount (which covers shipping and a bit more).

This is a 5-button gaming mouse with programmable LED lights. It's very light (lighter than my Magic Mouse) and has really high DPI (19k programmable which I guess is simulated). It comes with a special USB cable with fabric coating so it's really flexible and less impediment if you're using the mouse in wired mode. You can disconnect the mouse and plug-in the wireless adapter. It's kind of neat that for wireless it doesn't use USB but regular WIFI and the mouse and adapter are already paired. To a PC it still looks like a regular USB-connected mouse.

This is a right-handed mouse with two thumb buttons on the side. The other buttons are standard left, right, and scroll wheel/button. The Magic Mouse is small and comfortable in my apparently small hand. The Model O is a bit too big and for now it's uncomfortable after a few hours. I guess another thing is the scroll wheel seems a bit stiffer than I'd like, or maybe it's a bit too big.

Batter lasts about a day I think, maybe 10 hours of continuous use. Maybe longer if you turn off the lights. In general I get into the habit of turning off the mouse when not in use and using the Magic Mouse which last days of continuous use.

The biggest drawback is the PC-only configuration software. I tried to use CrossOver but it doesn't install and I thought I had a chance since communication to mouse is via USB. As such I can't program the buttons (the thumb buttons default to left button) and the lights cycle in default mode which is still nice. I guess I can try my VMWare but I really don't want to use it.

Overall it's an ok mouse for me. I wish the software worked on Mac otherwise I can live with the hardware drawbacks that are not quite right for me.