Kevin C. Wong

June 2020

iOS Game - Grand Mountain Adventure (2020) [/]

Grand Mountain Adventure is a skiing game where you are visiting a mountain riding lifts and then doing various challenges (runs). Most challenges seem to be timed though I did see a jumping challenge. You can also divert from a challenge and wander around finding secret challenges or just admiring the mountain.

Controls are simple. Tap left and right to use your ski poles. Starting from rest requires tapping left and right to get started and after that you tap to turn. Tap both to jump. Swiped down to break, which I never had to do.

There are bonus items you pick up: a backpack to carry things, a telescope to view the mountain from your location, a flowmeter that shows your current flow score (whatever that is), and others. You can also get better ski equipment (after the demo).

The game includes one mountain and to unlock the rest of the game it's $5.

Overall it's a nice looking game but maybe a bit too sandbox-y. I'd rather have the ski runs without the simulation of moving around a mountain like a tourist.

Spot Reviews 06/26/20

Trader Joe's Organic Italian Artisan Pasta Gigli [/] It's pasta. Like the linked review says, it cooks fast. I cooked it for 7 minutes (maximum recommended time) and it came out too soft. But otherwise tastes like pasta.

Moshi USB-C to DisplayPort Cable [+] These are sold at the Apple Store for $50. Connects USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 to a DisplayPort monitor. I've been using it for a couple of weeks and it works fine. White color that matches Apple cables though with a silver connector heads. Supports 5K video output so that's nice if I need it.

Twitch - AnnaMaja [/] Anna-Maja Kazarian is a Georgian-Dutch WIM living in the Netherlands and going to university. She mostly streams pre-dawn to early morning Pacific time so I only catch some of her streams. High level play with a good chat and sometimes plays Marbles.

Apple TV+ - Amazing Stories (2020) [/]

Amazing Stories is an hour-long 5-episode anthology series of science fiction stories.

  1. The Cellar - the best story, a time-traveling love story with an unexpected yet satisfying twist.
  2. The Heat - two track athletes reconnect after one of them is killed in an accident; this one seems to have been filmed in Oakland.
  3. Dynoman and the Volt! - a crotchety grandfather and his grandson learn to bond when he gains super powers.
  4. Signs of Life - a daughter is relieved when her mother wakes up from a several-years-long coma but she's completely different.
  5. The Rift - a mother and son witness an airplane crash and find a man who believes he was just in WW2 Burma.

I really liked the 1985 series though only really remember one or two episodes. Maybe because I'm 35 years older but these five episodes were mostly average. They're all kind of feel good with good endings, which I think the 1985 series was also unlike The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits were bad endings were common.

Overall I would not recommend this series. It's not bad but there is so much good television out there.

Software - CrossOver 19 (2019) [+]

CrossOver is an application that uses Wine to run Windows apps on your Mac (or Linux and Chrome OS). I guess that on top of Wine they add more testing and custom config scripts for each application. CodeWeavers also contributes a lot of code back to Wine (they do most of the WIne commits).

The UI is simple to use. Click Install, type in the application name, then select the application install EXE. Install goes smoothly though you will have to say OK to any sub-installs. After that you have a Wine bottle with your app. CodeWeavers also supports stores like Steam (install Windows Steam in a bottle then use Steam to install games).

My experience installing Dungeons & Dragons Online is here. There were some hiccups, some solved looking at CodeWeavers forums (they have a page for each Windows app with an accompanying forum channel), and others by finding them on the DDO forums. Everything works well (and a lot faster than DDO on my MBP 2015) and I'm confident CrossOver will run other Windows apps well.

CrossOver 19 includes three versions of Wine to support different Mac OS versions down to El Capitan 10.11: 32-bit Wine, 64-bit Wine, and a 64-bit Wine for 32-bit applications. Although you could do all this yourself with Wine that requires a lot of technical skill and patience. CrossOver makes it simple.

Overall, for running many Windows apps CrossOver is a great solution.

Spot Reviews 06/19/20

Zachary's Special: Roasted Pepper Stuffed Pizza [/]. "Roasted red, green and yellow bell peppers, Anaheim chile peppers, Pasilla peppers and onions, with cheddar and Monterey Jack". It's not spicy and if you like peppers this tastes like peppers. I'm not a fan of peppers though I do get them in Chinese food a lot so I'm not unused to them. Still, this pizza does have too much pepper flavor for me.

...and I gotta admit eating the second half of this pizza is a real chore.

The Ghost in the Shell: Global Neural Network (2018) [/] Color manga with four stories each about 30 to 40 pages long. The first two are good (Kusanagi in China; Togusa and Saito in the American Empire bayou) and the other two are not. All stories are set outside Japan with three in the former USA so it's nice to see info on the USA of the current timeline.

Movie - Ad Astra (2019) [/] Set a few decades from now. Astronaut Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is assigned a mission his father Astronaut Commander Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) who was presumed dead after the failure of a mission to Neptune. But Roy starts to suspect that if his mission fails the alternate mission is sending a team to assassinate the elder McBride...

Movie - Ford v Ferrari (2019) [+]

Ford v Ferrari is a racing movie mostly focused on two people: Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), former Le Mans winner, retired race car driver and now a race car designer; and Ken Miles (Christian Bale), hot tempered mechanic and professional race car driver. After Enzo Ferrari insultingly refuses to sell his company to Ford, CEO Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) gives Shelby a blank check to design a car that will win Le Mans.

There's a lot of stuff about designing the car and testing it. The main challenge is getting Miles to race Le Mans. He's the best driver but not a good spokesman for Ford so Senior Exec VP Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) keeps trying to get Miles replaced while Shelby tries to keep him on the team.

In the first year Miles doesn't make the team and all four Ford cars fail exactly like Miles predicted. Then Shelby bets that Miles will win the 24 hours of Daytona and if so Miles gets to race Le Mans, if not Ford takes ownership of Shelby's company. Miles does make it to the Le Mans team and the climax of the movie is the race which is quite well done...

This is an entertaining movie that makes both racing and car design rather exciting.

Firefox Monitor [+]

Firefox Monitor is a free service that notifies you when a data breach has been reported and logged by Have I Been Pwned which unfortunately might mean it can take years since the data breach has to be verified. Still, I signed up for it and these are the nine existing data breaches reported:

Adult FriendFinder (2016) - I went there and they don't have a record of my email address. Fairly sure I didn't have an account there (and breach data might have records from other breaches or from wherever; it's not like criminals are worried about data integrity).

EatStreet (2019) - I did have an account there though not in my keychain. Changed password.

Evite (2013) - I had changed my password recently, probably from an Evite notice. (2019) - I think a data aggregator so I don't have an account there, they just have a lot of my personal info.

MyFitnessPal (2018) - I think I got a notice from MFP and changed my password after the breach.

Disqus (2012) - They don't know my email address.

Kickstarter (2014), Dropbox (2012), LinkedIn (2012) - I remember getting notifications and changing my passwords then. But since I haven't changed my password in years I did so again.

For each breach Firefox Monitor lists things you can do to mitigate this breach and similar future breaches, example from the breach:

  • Use a service that masks your IP address
  • Avoid sharing your phone number
  • Avoid using personal info in PINs
  • Avoid using addresses in passwords

Even though the advice is generic each breach page only lists relevant mitigators so you're not overwhelmed. You can then mark the breach resolved.

Overall it's easy to use and a valuable service.

Spot Reviews 06/12/20

Giovanni Rana Portobello Mushroom Ravioli [+] Boil it in water for a few minutes and ready to eat. Mushroom and cheese filling. Quite good.

Movie - Black Snake Moan (2006) [/] Set in Mississippi, local wild white girl Rae (Christina Ricci) is almost raped and left for dead on a lonely country road. She's found by Lazarus Redd (Samuel L Jackson) who decides to redeem her and maybe also himself in the process. Christina Ricci sexy dance is the draw but it's not a bad character drama.

DDO: Masterminds of Sharn Expansion (2019) [+] This was the most recently released expansion pack for Dungeons & Dragons Online. One new race (Tiefling) and Skill Tree (Inquisitive) but the main content is Sharn, an aerial city with a 9-quest story arc + the Cogs, an underground area with 8 short adventures, and two raids. We played all the quests and it was pretty fun. Much more indoor buildings and city blocks adventuring than elsewhere in DDO, though it does strain graphics.

Movie - The Banker (2020) [+]

The Banker is an Apple TV+ movie about two African-American men, Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L Jackson) who built up a real estate empire in Los Angeles, specializing in buying properties adjacent to black neighborhoods then renting to affluent African-Americans. They then decided to buy Garret's hometown bank in Texas and provide loans to the underserved African-American clientele. Unfortunately that ran up against Texan bigotry and eventually both served prison terms...

It's an interesting movie. Moves slowly but did not bore. Mackie is excellent as Garrett.

Podcast - Only the Parts You Need (2019) [/]

Only the Parts You Need is a GURPS podcast started by Legendsmith and Enraged Eggplant although I think there is only one narrator.

  1. ST Systems Comparison, Magic Systems Comparison (Feb 07 2019)
  2. Introduction to GURPS (Feb 07 2019)
  3. Sorcery; Creating NPCs (Mar 17 2019)
  4. Animal Combat; Creating NPCs #2 (May 16 2019)
  5. Underwater Action (Aug 30 2019)
  6. Pyramid 3/44 Alternate GURPS II Review (May 19 2020)

It tends to be a bit technical. The narrator is both a bit dry and has a heavy accent so you have to work to comprehend. But it is lots of useful information if you're not familiar with the episode topics.

After a fast start it almost did a pod-fade but an episode after 9 months may indicate renewed interest by the creators.

Spot Reviews 06/05/20

Movie - The End of Evangelion (1997) [-] The anime Neon Genesis Evangelion had a weird ending that spanned the last two episodes. They tried to redo the ending with Death & Rebirth but that was also rather weird. End of Evangelion is yet another alternate ending. The first half is bleak but action packed and the second half is weird and metaphysical. That makes three tries and no good ending to the series.

iOS Game - Star Trek Timelines [-] I think I got two or so years of good gameplay out of this app. The last few months have been kind of boring and I begrudge the time I spend on this game just to get dailies done to help my fleet. It's very repetitive gameplay and every event you spend hours and hours doing very boring things in order to get a top 1k place.

Twitch - Anna_Chess [+] IM Anna Rudolf has one of the most wholesome streams on Twitch. She's always happy and the chat (which can be a few hundred people) is full of positivity. It's kind of remarkable how a streamer's attitude infects chat and can make people be good people.

Movie - Tau (2018) [+]

Tau is a Netflix movie thriller set in an automated house. Julia (Maika Monroe) has been kidnapped by Alex (Ed Skrein) for his AI experiments. At first she's in a prison cell with two other subjects but manages to destroy it and almost escape. After that she's kept prisoner in the main house which is run by Tau (voice of Gary Oldman), an AI with limited real-world knowledge. Her only hope is to recruit Tau to her side before the two weeks are up and Alex lobotomizes her to retrieve the data he needs...

This is an entertaining movie with good production value. Special effects are well done. There's an interesting dynamic between the three main characters, though Alex is more of a minor character since he's often away at work. Ending is satisfying so overall a movie worth watching.

Apple Arcade - Pinball Wizard (2019) [/]

Pinball Wizard is a dungeon crawler mixed with pinball mechanics. You're a wizard clearing tower levels. Each level is a circular field (or multiple circles connected by ramps) with two flippers in the bottom (where you come into the level) and sometimes other flippers. Use your flippers to maneuver, hit bad guys to kill them, avoid enemy shots, pick up coins, experience and mana.

You use coins to buy and upgrade powers such as shooting a lightning bolt or getting more rewards for certain actions. The enemies vary from slime that is easy to kill to bats that drop bombs, spiders that web up a flipper, and spiky whirlers that have to be hit when they rest.

It's an interesting hybrid. The pinball physics don't always seem quite right and I had more difficulty than normal because I wasn't using my special powers (there are two extra buttons to activate your two active powers). I think even if you're a bad player you can progress by grinding for gold to buy up your passive powers. I played it for a few hours before I got bored.