Kevin C. Wong

June 2023

Spot Reviews 06/30/23

Movie - The Professional Bridesmaid (2023) [/] Hallmark Channel romance movie. Maggie (Hunter King) is a professional bridesmaid -- hired to make sure wedding preparation and executions go off smoothly. She's hired to help the mayor's daughter Alexis (Francesca Bianchi) with her wedding but has to do it secretly. Meanwhile former political beat reporter Henry (Chandler Massey) now working for a web news company is assigned to cover the wedding. Maggies is tasked with keeping Henry away from the mayor while also helping Alexis and keeping everything secret from everyone except the mayor, his assistant, and Alexis. And of course Maggie and Henry have a bit of a romance brewing... This movie hits the mark and is quite pleasant.

Restaurant - Bosc + Bartlett at Santa Clara Marriott [/] This is the house restaurant at the Marriott that now hosts DunDraCon. It's good and maybe slightly pricey; kind of standard for a hotel restaurant. I don't even remember what I ate here -- I think maybe just appetizers during Rainbow night.

TV Movie - Stargate: Continuum (2008) [-] Once Stargate the tv series ended there were two tv movies and this is the second one. The last big bad, Ba'al (Cliff Simon), manages to change history and in a last gasp Mitchell (Ben Browder), Carter (Amanda Tapping) and Jackson (Michael Shanks) use the same time travel device to end up on Earth a year at least before the Stargate program was started. No one believes who they are and a year later a Goa'uld invasion fleet arrives to conquer Earth... I don't remember Stargate that well so watching this movie (again) while missing much of the context is barely watchable (I'm sure I loved it when I watched it before).

Movie - Extraction 2 (2023) [+]

I liked Extraction which left a thin sliver possibility for a sequel (the protagonist was shot multiple times in the chest then fell off a bridge into a river seemingly unconscious and in heavy clothes). Extraction 2 starts with Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) getting pulled out of the river and resuscitated by medical team from his mercenary company.

A few months later after rehabbing Tyler is retired but a mystery man hires him to rescue his sister-in-law Ketevan (Tinatin Dalakishvili), her teen son Sandro (Andro Japaridze) and her young daughter Nina (Miriam and Marta Kovziashvili) from a Georgian prison where they are being held by their criminal dad Davit (Tornike Bziava).

Tyler brings in his mercenary partner Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani), who I think runs the business. Nik and her brother Yaz (Adam Bessa) are much more involved in ops this time around, as well as other unnamed and almost unseen mercenaries in their employ (and boy do they have a lot of resources).

This being an action film there are some great set pieces. The prison break is almost real time following Tyler almost all the time with people jumping in and out of frame. It's not a one-shot scene but it kind of feels like it. Once they have the family out and "safe" there is an attack (Davit's brother Zurab [Tornike Gogrichiani] is the head of a Georgian criminal military organization) on a high rise building in Germany. Then finally Tyler goes it alone against Zurab and his remaining men as they prepare to get away from Germany before the army arrives to arrest them.

I like that Nik gets more action stuff to do and really that there are more mercenaries in the team. Extraction 1 it almost seemed like Tyler was by himself at the target site while his supporting mercs were far away with long range weapons and intelligence support. The action and special effects are good -- better than a mid-level budget theatrical action movie.

Overall a pretty good sequel.

macOS Utility - Mist 0.9 (2023) [+]

I've been using MDS to download macOS installers but that is one feature of a rather big enterprise admin type utility. MDS 5.0 requires a license which is overkill. But I was looking at the 4.3 release notes and it noted that it replaced the installer downloader code with Mist.

Mist is "A Mac utility that automatically downloads macOS Firmwares / Installers." Launch Mist and it shows you a list of available macOS install downloads from Apple (and it generates the list from the Apple download site). For each entry you can click to download the installer or download and create a bootable installer. If you pick an installer incompatible with your Mac CPU then it'll warn you.

For download installer you can choose to have it save the app or the app in a disk image/ISO/package. It then shows an informative progress checklist so you can see where it is in the process (when downloading it shows download size and how much downloaded). Mist will download the installer, verify it, and unpack/repackage it as needed. (BTW downloading from Apple's site is quite fast, about 450 to 500 Mbps with Fiber Internet + 802.11ac WiFi).

For creating a bootable installer it needs a disk (or partition) that it will erase then create the bootable installer on.

Mist can also download firmwares but not sure that those are.

Anyways, an easy way to download installers which you then use to install macOS on a machine or a VM. Useful if you want to install not the latest macOS since Mac App Store won't really allow you to install older OSes. Also useful to install on a VMWare Fusion VM since Fusion wants an install image to work with (it won't download it for you). Theoretically you can also use the Mac App Store to download the installer as if you're going to upgrade then cancel and get the installer from the download location but that's a bit tricky.

Spot Reviews 06/23/23

Movie - Salt (2010) [+] CIA Analyst Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is fingered as a Russian spy. To save her husband she immediately breaks out of the CIA building and therefore is chased by the whole agency including her former mentor and current manager Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber)... I think this is my fourth watching (theater, DVD with commentary and alternate endings, streaming with my brother) and it's still a fairly awesome film with Angelina Jolie playing a badass and a few twists throughout the film.

Movie - The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) [/] Alien spheres land on Earth. In New York's Central Park a figure emerges but is accidentally shot by the army. Astrobiologist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is brought in to treat him, an alien in human form named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves). Helen decides to help him escape from a government that is fearful and willing to dissect him for science but it turns out she may be helping the enemy when Klaatu declares Earth must be saved... from humanity.

I watched the original when I was a kid (barely remember any of it) and this version I watched twice. Both times I've been vaguely disappointed -- starts out great but I think I'd rather have a different middle and ending.

KFC Mac & Cheese Bowl [/] KFC macaroni & cheese is not my favorite because it kind of sits there and the pasta is fairly squishy (I like my pasta firmer). But add five chicken nuggets and it turns out edible.

Anime - Luminous Witches (2022) [/]

Luminous Witches is an anime spinoff of Strike Witches (which I haven't seen). This is an alt-history WWII where aliens invade Europe (i.e. replace Nazis with mysterious aliens) and witches are young girls with magic abilities (which they lose in their early 20's I guess hence why they're all teenagers) that allow them to fly around and take the role of very maneuverable fighter planes.

In that world there are witches who don't fit well in the military. Former witch Grace Maitland Steward (Mikako Komatsu) decides to form a singing troupe of witches to go around raising morale like a USO troupe. She gathers representatives from the various armed forces, witches with erratic powers or who don't have the temperament for army life. The twelve-episode series is about forming the troupe, training them, then going on tour with various episodes highlighting a member or two and their back stories.

It's a pleasant story with interesting characters though I'd probably like a more action-oriented series like Strike Witches.

Ars Technica [+]

Ars Technica is my favorite news/articles tech site. I like that it doesn't shove a bunch of related news bits as separate articles to spam their feed (e.g. when Apple releases a minor OS update for each platform we don't need a separate article for each). Generally the articles are written even if a summary of a press release (some sites would make the press release an article with maybe a line or two of editorial). They do in-depth articles on technology, astronomy, movies and television, and in general topics that interest me.

Commentary system is fairly good with up/down voting and enough activity so that if you're just reading the comments they're mostly fairly good (exceptions when platform or political zealotry rears its head). RSS feed is good - you get a pic and a few paragraphs and the titles are good so that you often don't need to go to the article to get the main point.

I used to read Slashdot but that's more of an aggregator with a great commenting system than a platform with original content. I also read a few Apple News sites because they're more responsive though often repetitive (c.f. splitting up a topic that could be covered in one article into separate articles and when they all do it it's an avalanche of little news stories all kind of sounding alike). Ars Technica is not really a site for up-to-the-minute news but more like a newspaper where when they post an article a day or two later there is more research and thoughtful writing.

Overall Ars Technica is really good and the only general tech site I read nowadays.

Spot Reviews 06/16/23

Rice-a-Roni Spanish Rice [+] I finally made this with the required can of diced tomatoes and it's really good but I do like tomatoes a lot. Without the tomatoes it is still fairly ok. Cooking time is the same as other Rice-a-Ronis (about 25 min) and the recipe calls for 1/2 cup less water than usual.

Movie - Interstellar (2014) [+] Watched this again and it's still a really good movie. Knowing the plot twist doesn't make the movie less enjoyable probably because the twist didn't change everything that happened previously making you see it in a new light. The visuals are great even on my 11" iPad.

Movie - Army of One (2020) [/] Low budget action film. While on a camping vacation Special Forces soldier Brenner Baker (Ellen Hollman) and her husband discover a weapons cache, are captured by backwoods boys and her husband is killed. Brenner escapes but she's not leaving the area until they're all dead... Better than I expected.

Movie - Kill Boksoon (2023) [+]

Kill Boksoon is a stylish modern-day Korean assassins movie. Gil Bok-soon (Jeon Do-yeon) is the best assassin in the business but also a single mother of a teenager (Kim Si-a) who doesn't know mom's secret. Bok-soon is mulling retirement but head of the company Cha Min-kyu (Sol Kyung-gu) doesn't want her to leave and is willing to manipulate her into re-upping her contract. Meanwhile Min-kyu's sister Min-hee (Esom) hates Bok-soon is trying to get her killed by breaking the assassin's code...

There are some pretty good fight scenes. Two or three times we see Bok-soon envision a fight, see that it's not going to end well, then change her plans. Characters are interesting with no true good or evil and Bok-soon is a sympathetic character (and she only does like two contracts in the film the rest of the time fighting other assassins).

Overall quite entertaining.

Wiki.js 2.0 [+]

I've been using Wiki.js to organize my Basic D&D campaign. So why use this instead of RapidWeaver?

Multi-user: I can have multiple people editing the site. For examples my players could update their characters or have online notes. With multi-user support that also means some sort of permissions which means I can keep pages for my eyes only and have game master notes.

Editing Speed: If I show a page to my players and it has wrong information I can edit the page, save and it publishes at the same time, the can reload page to see changes. With RapidWeaver I could edit the change, publish the changes, sync then to my web server machine then players can reload page. Not much slower I guess though with a wiki I could make those changes anywhere whereas RapidWeaver I need my laptop.

Search: My RapidWeaver site is simple and static with no search capability (though could be added via Google). Most wikis have search built-in and Wiki.js has both a simple one (just titles) or you can enable a db-based one which does keyword searches.

Versioning: If you make a mistake you can rollback to a previous version. Version comparison is also there by viewing page history.

Diagrams: Wiki.js supports You can insert or edit a diagram, it opens a page in where yo can edit, then save it back to Wiki.js as some sort of ascii-non-readable format but one which Wiki.js can render into a graphic. This is actually kind of nice for a table-top RPG so I can draw a map of what players can see then add to it as they move around. Mind you it's a diagram so vector graphics: not as precise as a painting program but easier to then edit elements.

One thing I haven't seen from wikis do is automatically creating/updating a feed rss file, which RapidWeaver does for Blog page type. I'd guess WikiMedia has an extension for this and as far as I can tell Wiki.js does not support this.

Why Wiki.js over other Wikis?

I looked at a few other wiki platforms. MediaWiki (which runs Wikipedia) and derivatives are fairly big and complicated to install and setup. I wanted a wiki simple to install and setup and Wiki.js is one. BookStack is another though its library/books/chapters metaphor seems a little limited.

Wiki.js is written in JavaScript and runs on Node.js, which is a JavaScript runtime engine, and uses Postgres DB so it's very portable and even though it's not really macOS specific it runs fine. Installation is fairly simple, for a server service that is, and should be doable for anyone with lowish level of command line experience.


Wiki.js docs site at is actually a pretty good example of site. It has a blue and white theme (you can change themes though there are few available -- I guess you can install others and there are also lots of extensions but I haven't added any). There is navigation sidebar which is setup in admin setup (admin setup includes a bunch of stuff that I feel is more for a wiki site manager and hopefully that will be split up in a future version). Main content area might show a page contents side bar if the window is big enough (and if the window is smaller the navigation side bar is hidden, adaptive layout is nice for handling mobile phones to large desktop monitors).

If you have edit access you can: Edit, History, View Source, Convert, Duplicate, Move/Rename, Delete.

When you create a page you have to specify the editor: Markdown, Visual Editor, Raw HTML. Markdown is a text-based format where some ascii characters indicate HTML tags, e.g. start a line with # means this is a Header 1 line. Visual Editor is a WYSIWYG word processor editor. Raw HTML is a page that will be served directly. There is also AsciiDoc which is kind of like Markdown (I prefer Markdown as that is more of a widely used standard).

Whenever you save a page Wiki.js converts it to an HTML page so that serving it users is fast. Convert allows you to change the editor of a page and it's fairly good converting from Markdown to Visual Editor, back again mostly good though Visual Editor has more richness especially with tables so you may lose some of that. Markdown has the support so you lose that with Visual Editor. In general I like Markdown unless I need a fancy table.

All pages are kept in a directory structure and the navigation sidebar allows you to navigate the folder structure. When you link using the command you can choose the destination page. You can also tag pages which I guess then allows you to search pages by tag.

As I mentioned above search is just page titles though you can go to the admin setup and for postgres enable advanced search (I think it install a package into postgres to do indexing) in which case search includes page contents. The search results show page title, page summary (which you typed in when you created the page), and page location -- I'd like a bit of the page contents context around the found search term. If you search for multiple words it returns pages that contains all the words. You can't search for strings though, just words.

Users and permissions are done in the admin area. You can assign users to groups then assign permissions to those groups. You can also setup page rules for each group which is a rules-based engine. I find it unintuitive and would rather be able to assign permissions from editing the page though since you can't edit a folder structure that would be a bit of a problem. For secret pages what I did is give the non-admin groups a rule that if a tag matches "secret" then read/write permissions are denied which seems clumsy but at least works.

You can upload images and really any file via Edit Page > Insert Assets command (a bit clumsy again but it works). Assets are kept in the same folder structure as wiki pages (the folder navigator doesn't show assets) and the files follow the same naming conventions. Like any web server assets have to be directly getable from a web browser -- I use assets to store podcast feed.xml files which I can then serve (which is something I can do in RapidWeaver too though the URLs would all have /resources/ in them since the assets folder is fixed).


Wiki.js is easy to install and has a clean, adaptive default UI. Creating and editing pages is easy. User administration, navigation bar setup and permissions setup is clumsy (Wiki.js is more of a small workgroup solution than one for dozens or more editors). It's a very portable solution. It's open source and the source code is on github. Overall I'm pretty happy with it.

Spot Reviews 06/09/23

Restaurant - Joy Sushi, San Mateo [/] Mostyl sushi with some Japanese bento and other dishes. I had the Mexicano Roll ($16, shrimp tempura, grilled beef, cream cheese, deep fried jalapeño, crab meat, avocado, unagi sauce, spicy mayo) and an Oregon Roll ($9, salmon and avocad0. The Maxicano Roll was big and quite filling. The Oregon Roll was good but by itself would not have been enough. It's sushi and tastes fine to me.

Movie - Taken 3 (2014) [/] Rewatched Taken 3 recently cause I was hankering for Liam Neeson action goodness and even though it's the third film in the series it's still pretty entertaining. I like Forest Whitaker playing the LAPD inspector trying to catch Bryan Mills (Neeson).

Book - New Tales of the Yellow Sign (2013) [/] A collection of Robin D Laws' short stories set in his Yellow Sign RPG universe. That universe has four eras and these stories span those eras. Eight stories and all good except one which I kind of skimmed through cause it wasn't for me.

Movie - Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) [/]

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is I think the best attempt that a D&D movie. Whereas the three previous movies (two of them non-theatrical) tried for serious fantasy drama using moderate/low budgets and mostly failed this one goes for more campy with a fairly big budget (and the special effects are for the most part quite good). Think of it as a D&D Forgotten Realms campaign brought to the big screen.

The Initial Party

  • Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine) - former Harper and leader of the band, a bard who comes up with the plans
  • Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez) - Edgin's barbarian friend who is sort of second mother to his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman)
  • Simon Aumar (Justice Smith) - a sorcerer who is not that good with magic, unless he's under a lot of stress
  • Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant) - the face man of the group

Edgin lost his wife a few years ago. He and the party are hired by the wizard Sofina (Daisy Head) to break into the Harper stronghold and loot it. Edgin is willing to do that because inside the vault room is the Tablet of Reawakening which would allow him to resurrect his dead wife (in this version getting killed by a Thayan magic dagger is permanent, though I guess we never see Raise Dead used in this movie). The heist kind of succeeds but Edgin and Holga are caught and sent to prison.

Two years later Edgin and Holga escape and search for Kira who is living under the care of Forge who is now Lord of Neverwinter. Turns out Forge is a bit of an asshat who's been lying to Kira about her father. Forge and Sofina (his wizard adviser) kick the two out of Neverwinter. (I think by now the audience also knows that Sofina is a Red Wizard of Thay, who are the evil evil bad guys in the Forgotten Realms). Edgin decides to break into Neverwinter's vault, steal the Tablet of Reawakening, raise his wife and prove to Kira he was telling the truth. To do that he forms a party.

The Second Party

  • Edgin
  • Holga
  • Simon
  • Doric (Sophia Lillis) - tiefling druid though pretty much only does wildshaping into different animals and inflicting spells via a hand sling, she and Simon dated for a while but it ended badly though Simon still has feelings
  • Xenk Yendar (Regé-Jean Page) - a paladin who joins the party for a bit for questing in the Underdark, he has experience with Thayan Red Wizards.

They have to get some items. Then there's a heist to get into the Neverwinter vault. When they're captured Forge gives them one chance for a pardon if they win the High Sun Games, five teams compete in a death maze to get to the end first though most teams get TPK'd (total party killed). The party cleverly makes it out through a loophole (and we briefly see the characters from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon competing in the maze) and make their escape out of the city.

But that's when Sofina enacts her plan to turn all the audience into zombies so the party has to head back to save the day...

I think if you go in expecting this to be like an actual-play D&D campaign then you'll enjoy it more. There's a lot of silly stuff between the characters that you'd see in over-the-board D&D. I like that they don't really call out the classes showing that the classes aren't straightjackets. Also not everyone is casting spells, sometimes the spells are just their abilities.

All in all it's a better movie than I expected and pretty enjoyable.

Apple News+ [/]

I tried a three-month trial of Apple News+ and I won't be renewing because it's not for me. There are two categories of new material:

A selection of newspapers, many of which are only on + not the regular Apple News. This is more like a web-site view though. I kind of like my newspapers as issues. The selection is not that varied though for me The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee are ones I might read.

A bigger selection of newsstand magazines with back issues going to Mar/Apr 2018. These seem to be the full magazines including ad pages. You can kind of swipe left and right to go to the next article though didn't seem to work all the time. It's kind of like a scrollable web view where most article are shown big and you have to swipe down. I'd rather read a PDF on my 10" iPad because one page looks fine in that screen size.

For $10 a month if you can read a newspaper and a couple of magazines I guess that's about the same price. For me though I don't really read newspapers and the magazine selection was not for me. There are three Mac magazines: MacFormat, MacLife, MacWorld and they're nice but I don't keep up with Mac stuff as much these days. There is Sports Illustrated and some other sports magazines though for secondary sports. Lots of adult hobby magazines: kitchen and gardening and so on. Life style magazines, celebrity-type magazines,...

Comes down to it there's nothing there I really want to read so I'll pass on Apple News+.

Spot Reviews 06/02/23

Restaurant - Charm Thai Eatery, San Mateo [+] Pad Kee Mao with Pork - rice noodles, pork, tomatoes, string beans, onions, (max spice) = good and eventually quite spicy. Garlic fish + Coconut rice = tasty and after the spicy really cooled off my mouth.

Novel - The Apocalypse Troll (1999) [/] David Weber science fiction novel about a Marine Corps Colonel and pilot Ludmilla Leonovna from the future who ends up crash landing on Earth and rescued by US Navy SEAL Captain Dick Aston. She has to stop an alien that also came to Earth, one capable of destroying humanity before they become a threat to his masters... It's kind of typical David Weber science fiction storytelling although a bit weird because everything is told from the POV of characters other than Ludmilla even though she's the through line of the plot.

Apple Arcade - LEGO Builder's Journey (2019) [/] Solve puzzles by building and changing LEGO structures. UI is a bit fiddly though and I'd hate to play this on an iPhone. Does look nice.