Kevin C. Wong

TV Show - Star Trek: Discovery s1 (2017) [+]

Three years later I have a chance to watch Star Trek: Discovery and Season 1 was very good. It's set a few years before TOS (and in Season 2 USS Enterprise has just returned from her first 5-year mission under Captain Pike).

The show focuses on Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and in episode 1 she is First Officer on the USS Shenzhou under the command of Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). During an encounter with a Klingon ship (the first Klingon encounter in decades) Burnham commits an act of mutiny trying to save her ship. Unfortunately it's for naught and she starts a war between the Federation and Klingons.

Episode 2 begins a few months later with Burnham in prison. She is enlisted to serve on USS Discovery commanded by the unconventional Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) who believes Burnham did the right thing (Lorca is a bit of a shoot first kind of captain). First Officer Saru (Doug Jones) was science officer on Shenzhou and is not so sure about Burnham.

Discovery is equipped with an experimental Spore Drive. Apparently mushrooms all over the universe are interconnected in Mycelial Space, which also touches all alternate universes. It feels so crazy at first but they treat it seriously always and after a while I got used to it. Reminds me of science fiction stories that take one super science thing and extrapolate the rest on top of our normal world. Well, Spore Drive is the super science thing on top of the Star Trek universe.

Season 1 has three phases. The first half is the war with the Klingons. Then a few episodes trapped in the Mirror Universe. Then a few episodes back to resolve the war. It ends in a slight cliffhanger but Season 2 starts a whole new arc.

The special effects are amazing. They spent a lot of money per episode and it shows. The stories and characterizations are pretty good. As I mentioned it's a serial story and not all the episodic. 15 episodes means that the arc has to keep moving and there are no extraneous episodes.

Overall Season 1 is quite excellent.

Apple iPad (5th Generation) (Wi-Fi) (2017) [/]

A few years ago I bought an iPad (5th generation) with 32 GB and Wi-Fi (no cellular) to use as a cheap ($330 + $100+ for a Logitech cover/keyboard) guest machine for Kooma. Unfortunately due to various circumstances she never visited so I've been using it on and off as an additional screen.

First off, it was already kind of slow when I bought it. 3+ years later and it's still kind of slow but doesn't seem noticeably worse. If you're looking at web sites or doing other low animation stuff it's fine. Even watching videos is fine but moderate games are slow and I'd rather not play games on it anymore.

32 GB storage has been fine. I don't store much media on it and you can stream if you need to.

It still supports the last iOS versions, maybe without all the features.

Anyways I use it for:

Watching Paramount+ since that doesn't support picture-in-picture
Playing Star Trek Timelines when I'm also using my other iPad for Raid Shadow Legends
As a rarely used backup to my iPad Pro

Since I don't expect guests anymore I don't expect to replace this with another low-end iPad. Still, it does show that the low-end iPad is quite useful for a few years.

Spot Reviews 03/26/21

Trader Giotto's Vegetable Radiatore [-] Unusual-shaped pasta made with vegetable powders. I've had this a few times and have never gotten it to cook right -- it always comes out too soft. I much prefer Barilla's Vegetable Rotini.

Movie - The Command (2018) [/] A Belgian-Luxembourgian film about the Russian submarine Kursk, which was lost during training exercises in 2000. It's got good submarine sequences and internals of the SSBN and there's good drama. But in the end you realize everybody died so all the stuff inside the submarine is pure fantasy which kind of detracts from the impact of the story.

Among Us - Werewolf Variant [/] I saw some Twitch streamers playing this variant (the Among Us devs seem pretty good about letting Twitch streamers suggest and beta test various mods). It's Among Us with Werewolf characters:

Jester - if you get voted off you win
Sheriff - can kill aliens
Metamorph - an alien that can shape change into another player character
Snitch - if you complete your tasks the aliens show up as red for you (and you show up as yellow to them)
Ghost - one player get this and if they die they get new tasks and can win the game as ghost

And a couple of other roles. It is kind of an expert play sort of mod as there are lots of moving parts.

Movie - Elizabeth Harvest (2019) [/]

Elizabeth Harvest is a modern day thriller set in a luxurious yet remote home. Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) marries the man of her dreams, scientist Dr Henry Kellenberg (Ciarán Hinds) and brings her home where she meets the help, Claire (Carla Gugino) and the blind Oliver (Matthew Beard). Henry tells Elizabeth that everything he has is hers also except for one room which she promises to never enter.

Henry goes away on business and after a day or two of boredom Elizabeth goes into the secret room and discovers a duplicate, a clone, sleeping in a vat. Unfortunately she is trapped there and when Henry returns she can't maintain composure and Henry hunts her down and murders her.

Reset to another Elizabeth coming home with Henry after their wedding. This one also finds out the secret and also can't keep calm but Elizabeth number 5 manages to kill Henry while Claire and Oliver are away. So what is she to do now?

A bit slow paced building up the situation and pretty much everything is eventually explained in various flashbacks. Abbey Lee is a supermodel and maybe not the best actress but Elizabeth is a bit confused at times due to being a clone with incomplete memories so it works out. Ciarán Hinds pulls off being amoral. Oliver as a character is interesting and Matthew Beard does a good job. Claire is a bit superfluous except in the flashbacks and Carla Gugino is an excellent actress given a character who seems to be there mostly to witness things.

Still, it's an interesting movie and fairly well put together.

iOS App - Paramount+ (2021) [-]

The old CBS app was updated and rebranded as the Paramount+ app. These are my notes on the app, not so much the service.

  • No PnP support. I didn't think anybody did that other than YouTube which makes PnP a subscriber benefit. So I can't play a game while watching Paramount+.
  • It plays a 6-second Paramount+ logo video every time you go back to home page and tap to watch a video even if you're continuing.
  • Skipping forward and back is a bit laggy compared with other video services.
  • You can't favorite a show. You do get a row with shows you've been watching but that's not the same thing. Like I can't favorite something so I remember to watch it later.

On the plus sides you can watch in SD or HD, stream to a network device, use close captioning and it's fairly good at resuming about where you were when you suddenly switch to another device.

I don't remember if the CBS app was this bad because if it was then the user experience will probably not improve.

Spot Reviews 03/19/21

Trader Joe's Chicken Wrap with Pesto Vinagrette [/] Diced chicken with a few vegetables in a tortilla wrap with a separate pesto sauce. I ate it without the sauce and it tasted fine. Another good $4 light lunch fare.

Movie - Playing Cupid (2021) [/] For a high school business project teen Clara (Mia Quaranta De La Rosa) starts a matchmaking service and secretly engineers a match between her divorced dad David Martinez (Nicholas Gonzalez) and her teacher Kerri Fox (Laura Vandervoort). It's a nice safe Hallmark romantic movie.

Twitch - PhotoChess [/] WFM Maria Emelianova recently celebrated her two year anniversary on Twitch. She does chess content though leaning more towards puzzle battles. She also plays World of Warcraft and has done Lego building streams. Maria is a professional photographer mostly covering chess events and tournaments. She is a bit stoic but friendly. She also has cool hippo emotes. Unfortunately she does stream in the YEKT time zone, 12 hours difference from California so hard to catch her streams.

Movie - The Black Hole (1979) [/]

The Black Hole is a classic Disney live-action science fiction film back before they had Touchstone for this kind of fare.

On the way back to Earth USS Palomino encounters a giant black hole but more surprising a ship stationary well within the black hole's gravity well. It's the Cygnus, a giant exploration ship thought lost a couple decades ago. The Palomino decides to investigate and end up trapped by the black hole, forced to land on the Cygnus which is not as dead as they thought.

The crew of six -- Captain Dan Hollard (Robert Forster), Lieutenant Charlie Pizer (Joseph Bottoms), and the AI droid VINCENT (Roddy McDowall) are the ship crew; Dr Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins) and Dr Kate McCrae (Yvette Mimieux) are the mission scientists; Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine) is a journalist documenting the mission -- end up meeting Cygnus' commander, Dr Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) and his thuggish droid Maximilian.

Dr Reinhardt plans to travel through the black hole and explore the other side and he's willing to let the Palomino crew fix their ship and observe his attempt from a distance. But there are secrets on the ship and once the Palomino crew find out Dr Reinhardt reluctantly decides to dispose of them...

Maximilian the robot was scary when I was a kid. Also when Dr Durant removes the face mask from one of Cygnus' robot crew. The special effects are not amazing considering earlier films like 2001 (1968) and Star Wars (1977), but still good. The story is a good science fiction story. The ending is a bit deux ex machina as it turns out the Palomino crew don't directly bring down Dr Reinhardt and the Cygnus.

Overall though, The Black Hole stands up and is still entertaining today.

Eyeworks of San Mateo [+]

I've been using Eyeworks of San Mateo for a decade this August and have been happy with their service. Dr Gary Lai, OD is my regular optometrist and he's capable and friendly. Dr Sharon Ho, OD, FAAO is the other optometrist and I've had her once when Dr Lai was unavailable and that was fine too.

They have equipment to test your eye in various ways and the usual eye charts and magnifying device to determine your prescription strength. They also sell frames and I'm guessing that's their profit margin so I'm not averse to buying a frame every year even though it costs me $300 or $400+ for a good frame and lenses with all the options.

Nowadays they use Sales Force which sends you texts to confirm appointments and you reply to confirm or change it. On the one hand neat on the other seems so Twentieth Century.

They're also in downtown San Mateo and now 10 minutes walk from my place so that's convenient.

Spot Reviews 03/12/21

Trader Joe's Tuna Salad Wrap [/] Tuna salad, cherry tomatoes and lettuce in a tortilla wrap for $4. Fairly tasty and filling for a light lunch.

Movie - Squared Love (2021) [/] Polish romantic comedy wherein playboy Enzo (Mateusz Banasiuk) pursues car commercial co-star Klaudia (Adrianna Chlebicka) but he also starts to fall for grade school teacher Monika who happens to be Klaudia's real persona. It's a pleasant movie.

Podcast - Harold on Games (2018) [/] I've listened to the first 10 episodes. This is a tabletop board wargaming podcast and mostly talking with designers and industry people (Harold is also a published wargame designer). Interesting rather than engrossing but I think I'm not as into wargames as I used to be.

Movie - Wolfwalkers (2020) [+]

Wolfwalkers is an animated film set in Ireland of I guess around 17th century (based on the Protestant clothing, reminds me of pilgrims colonizing America). Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) and her father Bill (Sean Bean) are English folk who have come to live in a city in Northern Ireland (I'm guessing). The population is Irish, the rulers are English, and the villagers don't like the English.

Bill is a hunter tasked with ridding the nearby woods of wolves, which kind of butts up against Irish traditions and an old pact between the villagers and the wolfwalkers, almost mythical people who can talk to and become wolves. Robyn is a tomboy and wants to become a hunter like her dad. She wanders into the woods and meets Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a woods girl who turns out to be a wolfwalker.

It takes a bit but the two become friends, especially after Robyn discovers she can wolfwalk too due to getting bitten by Mebh. Robyn tries convincing Mebh to take the wolves and leave before the Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) has his army burn down the forest. Mebh though is waiting for her mother to come back, missing for a long time in her wolf form. Which brings us back to a mysterious voice in a covered cage that talks to Robyn when she's working in the Lord Protector's keep...

It's a fairly good tale for a younger audience and I also found it entertaining. The animation is evocative of period art. Voice acting is good and the characters are interesting. Overall a very good animated film.

Mac mini (Late 2014) [+]

Mac mini (Late 2014) is one that stayed in the lineup for 4 years getting kind of old until the 2018 refresh which still used Intel chips. I actually bought mine Feb 2018 a few months before the refresh but I don't regret it. I set it up and it's been working for three years just fine.

CPU: 2.8 GHz Intel Core i5
RAM: 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
Graphics: Intel Iris
Storage: Fusion Drive: 128 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD

I run macOS 10.13.6 + macOS Server 5.6.1. It's the last version of Server before Apple stripped out most of the software and the last version of macOS that runs that version of Server.

I run it headless which, after setup with static IP, works surprisingly well. After a reboot I can connect with Apple Remote Desktop at 1280 x 1024 full color and on a local network it almost as fast as being there.

The machine is in my bedroom and runs very quiet I guess because I'm barely using the storage space so most everything is on the SSD. The only time I notice it is when it starts a Time Machine backup because the Time Capsule HDD spins up.

The only problem I've seen is that it sometimes gets short on RAM. A lot of build_hd_index processes using up most of the RAM and from what I saw this is associated with Apple Remote Desktop usage. So might be a bug if I connect often.

Other than that my Mac mini has not given me any problems and it's a good compact headless machine and I expect the M1 version has continued that trend.

Spot Reviews 03/05/21

Trader Giotto's Organic Pesto Pizza with Tomatoes & Broccoli [/] This is a medium cheese pizza with tomato slices and chopped up broccoli. I guess you need to cook a bit longer than indicated or it eat it quickly -- the first slice was crispy but the other two started getting less crispy more soggy. Still, it's healthy and tastes good.

Podcast - The Veteran Wargamer (2016) [/] A podcast mostly about miniatures wargaming, historical and to a lesser extent fantasy and science fiction. Also related gaming topics (e.g., latest episode is wargaming ethics roundtable). Conversational and the host has a good voice. But miniature gaming is not really my interest.

Movie - Palmer (2021) [/] An AppleTV+ film. Former college football star Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) is out of prison after a decade and tries to rebuild his life. Through happenstance he ends up having to take care of Sam Burgette (Ryder Allen), a precocious elementary school kid who takes a liking to Palmer. But then Sam's well-meaning but drug addict mom Shelly (Juno Temple) returns and Palmer realizes he doesn't want Sam to go back to that kind of home life... It's a slow-paced drama with good acting but you have to be in the mood for this kind of fare.

Anime - Rosario to Vampire (2008) [/]

Rosario to Vampire is a schoolboy harem comedic anime. Tsukune Aono somehow ends up in a prestigious and remote private school that turns out to be a secret school for monsters trying to integrate with humans. Fortunately for him the rule is everyone must remain in human form. Unfortunately for him he often gets into fights where his opponents turn into their monster forms.

Before he even gets to the academy Tsukune meets Moka Kashiya and immediately falls in love. And she returns it and soon discovers he's a human but she's ok with it. Moka turns out to be a powerful vampire (strangely when she turns into monster form it's like an older Moka with a different personality unlike every other monster whose monster form is still the same personality as their human form). In any case almost every episode ends in a battle where vampire Moka beats the monster bad guy.

This being a harem series the first few episodes introduce different bad guys (or really bad girls) who end up joining the two's social circle. Kurumu Kurono, a succubus trying to charm all the school boys; Yukari Sendou, a young witch who falls for Mako; Mizore Shirayuki, a snow woman who thinks Tsukune is her only kindred soul.

As the series goes on the group joins the newspaper club and in the final episodes comes up against the machinations of the Protection Committee, a secret cabal of students that almost runs the school by bullying and extorting all the school clubs. It is because of Tsukune's compassion, decency, and human values that the group prevails and the school sees Tsukune as the real hero, a monster that never breaks human form...

Although a bit too fan service-y (lots of cleavage and panty shots) it's an ok series. It takes a while for the series plot to develop and the first half is pretty repetitive. But it gets better and the ending works out nicely.

Twitch Rivals [+]

Twitch Rivals is an event stream. They do one-day competitions pitching Twitch streamers against each other, often in games they're not expert with. Twitch handles the production including organization, scoring, and a pro host with guest analysts.

The beauty of this event is that you can watch the main broadcast and get an overall idea of what's going on, and/or you can watch individual streamers as they compete. Twitch Rivals recently did a chess hand and brain match and I watched (live) from one streamer's perspective and then watched the VODs for two other streamers and the main Twitch Rivals broadcast. The main channel was also doing two video streams so you could switch to the current scores (on mobile) or even have both videos showing (on desktop).

This is one of the few things Twitch can do really well. Most e-sports events either have the players there and you get just the main feed or the players are distributed but often not streaming themselves.