Kevin C. Wong

January 2021

TV Series - Tehran s1 (2020) [/]

Tehran is an Israeli spy thriller tv show of eight episodes. Mossad agent Tamar (Niv Sultan) is sent into Tehran to sabotage a military computer network so that the Israeli Air Force can bomb a nuclear plant. Unfortunately the mission doesn't go as planned and Tamar ends up on the run while both Iran internal security investigator Faraz (Shaun Toub) and her contact search for her. Luckily Tamar's family is originally from Iran and she still has family and a secret contact which Mossad doesn't know about...

This show is aired in the USA on Apple TV+. It starts out pretty interesting but, kind of surprising since it's only eight hour-long episodes, the storyline kind of meanders and seems padded. A tight three or four episode arc would have been much more interesting. And season one also ends in a cliffhanger with Tamar still on her own in Tehran. I guess with the title of the show it has to be that way but it's a bit too soap opera for me so I won't be watching season two.

Web Site - Chess.com [+] p2

Play --> Live Chess. Chess.com supports many different settings for standard chess. You can select one of several time controls (default is 10 min per player, no increment) or define your own time control (all time controls are time + increment without second or third time controls after X number of moves like in classical chess). When you click Play you go into the pool and are paired with another player looking for the same time control. You can set the range of ELO you will play against and can challenge friends. When you play with a friend you can let the computer set a handicap: it will remove pieces from the stronger player.

Play supports these games:

  • Standard chess
  • Live960 - Fischer Random, where the back rank pieces are set up randomly (though mirrored with the other player) with some limits. There are 960 starting position combinations hence the name.
  • 3 Check - Winner is whomever checks the other King three times. Lots of sacrificing pieces just to get a check.
  • King of the Hill - Win is either checkmating the other King or getting your King to one of the four central squares.
  • Crazyhouse - Taken pieces can be put back on the board (instead of a regular move)
  • Bughouse - Two-player Crazyhouse. Your partner can use the pieces you take on their board.

Chess.com ratings are based on game type and, for standard chess, time control. Bullet is 1 to 3 minutes per player, Blitz is more than 3 to less than 10 minutes, Rapid is 10 minutes or longer. Time = starting time + 40 moves of increment.

Play --> Daily Chess. Here you can play correspondence chess games where it is one more per day (or multiple days). You are allowed to research your game (i.e. consult books) but not use a computer engine.

Play --> Computer. Play against a computer opponent. There are a few dozen of various skill levels or even adaptive (they play better or worse throughout the game to match your level). There are also personality bots: Beth Harmon (from The Queen's Gambit), chess streamers and top players. And you can just play against Stockfish at level 1 to 25.

The bots are not a realistic experience. They tend to play very well and make random blunders with more blunders at lower levels. The personality bots don't really play like their namesakes, though they are programmed with appropriate quips. You used to be able to play the bots for chess.com rating but I guess that got abused, though I did use it myself to get from 1000 to 1300 elo.

Play --> Tournaments. Chess.com has many automatic tournaments of different types throughout the day. A club can also run a tournament for its members or for anyone (and anyone can create a club). There are also special event tournaments: Title Tuesday for titled players, Arena Kings for anyone, and others.

Play --> Four Player Chess. For some reason this is set up as a separate application. 4PC is on an 8x8 board with 3x8 extensions on each side. Each extension has one player. You can play free-for-all in which case the winner is the one that scores the most points (piece value of piece taken and 20 points if you checkmate someone). In a team game the opposite side players are one the same team and the winner is to first checkmate.

Play --> Variants. In addition to the variants in Live Chess and Four Player Chess there are:

  • Fog of War - You can't see opponent's pieces unless you can attack them.
  • Atomic - When a piece is captured it explodes.
  • Horde - One side is just a lot of pawns.
  • Chaturanga - An old version of chess where the "queen" moves one space diagonally, "bishops" jump two squares diagonally, and pawns don't get their two-square move.
  • Giveaway - Give away all your pieves to win.
  • Blindfold - Neither side can see any pieces.
  • Capture Anything - You can capture your own pieces too.
  • Sideways Pawns - Pawns can move sideways too.
  • Torpedo - Pawns can always move one or two squares forward.
  • No Castling - Players can't castle.

And yeah, it's kind of bad UI to have different game types spread out in different menus.

(to be continued)

Spot Reviews 01/08/21

Trader Joe's Roasted Vegetables [/] These were ok. Potatoes, Zucchini/Squash. Onions, Bell Peppers with some roasting-type seasonings. Brussel Sprouts too but they didn't come out too well, a bit tough and bitter. It's hard to get Brussel Sprouts right, maybe if I had oven baked instead of microwaving.

Steam Wishlists [+] You can view people's wish lists. When you buy a game if you say this is a gift it'll show your friends and highlight if any of them have the game wish listed. If your friend refuses the gift you get refunded.

Podcast - The GROGNARD Files (2015) [/] A podcast about classic role-playing games from the memories of a UK gaming group who played them heavily when they were young, stopped playing RPGs, then got back into RPGs. It's kind of meandering and sometimes their perspective is a little weird to me. I've listened to the first 15+ episodes and for now I'll keep listening or I might go look for a better old-school rpg podcast.

Movie - The Old Guard (2020) [+]

The Old Guard is a modern day action film. Andy (Charlize Theron) leads a small band of immortals who have been trying to do good through the centuries (doing good usually involving killing bad guys of course). But lately she's been having doubts that their work makes a difference since the world seems to be getting worse over time.

Unfortunately their latest mission is a trap that exposes their abilities. Now they have to stop big pharma CEO Steven Merrick (Harry Melling) and his hired mercenaries from capturing them and experimenting on them. Also, a new immortal is born and it's up to Andy and the others to bring her into the fold even though she may be unwilling...

It's a medium budget movie and it has good action scenes and special effects. It's good having a new immortal so she gets all the historical explanations. Theron is kick ass as always in action movies. The teams small unit tactics is pretty cool looking. There is a setup for a sequel and I never really like that. Maybe if it had been done as an after-end-of-credits surprise.

Anyway, I like the film.

Cisco DPC3008 Cable Modem [+]

My Cisco DPC3008 8x4 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem just died. It has a manufacturing date of 03/13 so I probably was using it for 7+ years and it gave very good performance the whole time (well, the last couple of years it was best to reboot it monthly otherwise it would get slowish and stay that way).

I'm replacing it with a 24x8 DOCSIS 3.0 modem which supports 600+ Mb per second. The DPC3008 I think was getting about 200 Mbps max (say a big file download from a speedy site) though it was usually half that (big file download from a big site and busy site like YouTube or Twitch). That seems right: 8 download channels vs 24 for the new modem.

DPC3008 was a model electronic appliance. Pug it in (there was like no setup) and don't worry about it for years.

Spot Reviews 01/01/21

Trader Joe's Cold Smoked Salmon Fleurettes with Creamy Filling [+] This was I think $10 for 12 pieces. It's just a strip of smoked salmon with a cream cheese-like filling and it's oily and good.

Movie - Project Christmas Wish (2020) [/] Hallmark Channel holiday romantic movie. Lucy (Amanda Schull) is the local town Christmas wishbringer but has her hands full when young Max (Averie Peters) asks for a Christmas with her father Lucas (Travis Van Winkle) like they used to have before mom passed away. But Lucas is not so keen to be the talk of the town... It's comfortable, predictable and has a good ending.

Peet's Coffee: Major Dickason's Blend [/] This is dark roast coffee and usually the one I buy because you can get it in a large pack (18 oz). To me it tastes like normal coffee and I drink it with milk (mind you I don't drink black coffee if I can help it).