Kevin C. Wong

Spot Reviews 10/30/20

Trader Joe's Parmesan Pastry Pups [+] TJ's version of pigs in a blanket -- little hot dogs wrapped in raw pastry. You bake them to cook so they come out fresh and it was enough for a meal.

Trader Joe's Inner Peas [/] TJ's version of the popular fried pea snack. It tastes close but not as good. Still, it's fairly yummy and has the proper fried taste and texture

Hallmark Movie - Wedding Every Weekend (2020) [-] To avoid being relegated to the singles' table during wedding season two semi-strangers (played by Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell) pretend to be a couple. Watched about 30 minutes but there was no chemistry.

Movie - The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) [+]

The Lincoln Lawyer is a legal thriller. Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is a shady lawyer who works out of his Lincoln Town Car (he's chauffeured around town and works out of the back seat). He's willing to work for criminals of all sorts though he does have a line.

His latest case is defending Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) accused of attempted rape and murder. The prosecution has a strong argument because it turns out Roulet is guilty. But not only that he's guilty of a previous crime that Haller was involved in court with and even when Roulet admits it to Haller the latter can't do anything about it because of client confidentiality. How is Haller going to both represent Roulet effectively and somehow bring him to justice?

It's a fairly low key film with lots of urban characters. I like Haller's dilemma and how he eventually solves it. The film remains interesting throughout.

Discworld Roleplaying Game 2E (2016) [+]

The second edition of Discworld Roleplaying Game uses GURPS 4th Edition rules. It's 400 pages and I have a nice hardcover version. It's a standalone RPG using a light-ish version of GURPS Lite, though those rules are smoothly integrated into the main text rather than being an appendix.

Table of Contents

  1. On the Back of Four Elephants - History and general geography
  2. Making Characters
  3. Nonhumans and Occupational Templates
  4. Going Shopping
  5. Doing Stuff - How to resolve tasks, do combat and wield magic
  6. Life and Lands - More in-depth on races and locations
  7. "Welcome to Ankh-Morpork" - Really nice section detailing the main city of Discworld
  8. The Supernatural Side - Witches and Unseen University
  9. "Suicidally gloomy when sober, homicidally insane when drunk" - Discworld characters written up as NPCs
  10. Beware Ambiguous Puzuma - Animals
  11. Bad Food, No Sleep, and Strange People - Running a campaign and a sample scenario

The magic system deserves call out since it's not standard GURPS. There are eight magical forms and each has a skill. Casting is improvisational and doing extra effects costs more magic points (which you can make up with skill penalties) and each form includes sample applications and spells. Witches have two or three of the magical forms but can do some really big spells if they take advantage of narrative.

I think the basics of the magic system are in GURPS Thaumatology but this is a more worked-up example. I don't think I've read the first edition Discworld RPG rules but taking a glance the magic system is basically standard GURPS reskinned with Discworld names. Second edition is a more suitable magic system.

The last chapter is nice because I never know what to run in an established literary setting. Here we get a few pages of a pirate/espionage location, the Brown Islands (an island group between Agatea and Ankh-Morpork and a way-station for ships). There are also a couple of 2-page locales and ideas, one an Arabian-esque city and another taking advantage of Four-Ecks' Australian Mad Max feel.

Overall it's a nice one-book RPG based on Discworld with lots of lots of organized Discworld lore.

Spot Reviews 10/23/20

Trader Joe's 100% Orange Juice with Extra Pulp [/] Since this is a house brand quality probably varies. The batch at my Trader Joe's said the oranges come from Brazil, Mexico and USA. Not as pulpy as I'd like and the taste is a bit off. Cheaper than Florida's Natural but I prefer the latter.

Trader Joe's Organic Orange Strawberry Banana Juice [/] This one takes sort of undefined fruity with a bit of banana. I think I'd prefer straight orange juice.

Trader Joe's Orange Peach Mango [-] Oof. This one does not taste good whether it's after a meal (where the flavor clashes with whatever I ate) or by itself. Tasting it again... yeah, the peach flavor throws it off and doesn't fit in with the orange and mango.

Anime - Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll (2019) [+]

Violet Evergarden is an anime series set in a late 19th century Earth type land, several years after a major war ended. Violet Evergarden (Erika Harlacher) was an orphan child soldier, an augmented weapon, during the war. After the war she finds herself adrift and unsure of what to do with her life. Violet is hired by the CH Postal Company as an Auto Memory Doll, which is someone who writes letters on behalf of other people (who often can't write or can't express their feelings as well as a Doll can) and delivers the letters. In the series Violet interacts with her clients, solving their problems and learning a bit more about herself in the process.

Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll is a movie set maybe a year after the series. Violet is sent far away on a sixth month assignment to teach Isabella York (Colleen O'Shaughnessey) to be a debutante. For one we learn that Violet is actually quite in command of upper class social graces. During the first half of the movie we learn that Isabella was an orphan who "adopted" another orphan girl, then was found by her real father, a minister in the government, and taken in to be raised as his daughter. Unfortunately Isabella's sister Taylor (Sandy Fox) was taken away and put in foster care and Isabella is never to see her again. The first half ends with Isabella trained and Taylor receiving a letter from her sister Amy (Isabella's original name).

On to the second half set a few years forward. Young Taylor comes to the CH Postal Company to pursue a career in postal delivery because they're in the business of bringing happiness to people. She's rather bad at it because she can't read so Violet takes it upon herself to teach Taylor. Eventually Taylor gets to write her own letter and secretly deliver it to Isabella (who kind of disappeared after she married). It's a bittersweet happy moment and Taylor resolves to deliver the next letter herself when she's a full-time postal delivery girl...

It's a really nice human drama story with excellent animation and voice acting.

MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) [+]

MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

Processor: 2.4 GHz 8-Core Intel Core i9
Memory: 64 GB 2667 MHz DDR4
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5500M 8 GB + Intel UHD Graphics 630 1536 MB

I've had my MBP for a few months and it's been really great. I use it with two monitors (Dell U2717D and Dell U2415) and also use the internal monitor for a 3-monitor setup. MBP handles this fine and I can play DDO (via CrossOver) while watching three or four Twitch streams. I can also run Handbrake encoding and I might notice while doing UI stuff even though it's taking like 600% CPU.

Since I don't use it as a portable the Touch Bar is little used. I guess would be used if my MBP were the central screen but making the smallest screen primary is not a good idea. On the other hand Touch ID is more convenient than I thought. When it comes up I can reach over and touch the button no problem.

It has four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports which I use for: power, connection to Drobo, connection to each Dell monitor (for video and to each monitor's USB hub). USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 is a bit confusing (they do have different capabilities even though they share the same connector) but I can see living with one USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port and daisy chaining my peripherals.

I guess that's it. It's a good computer and even though four or five years later model than my previous MBP I can basically treat it like a faster computer to what I had before.

Addendum: With Touch ID you also get Apple Pay without having to use an iOS device for identification, which didn't work if I was on VPN (because authentication uses Bluetooth for discovery and current Wifi network for authentication). You can easily add cards that you've already added in other devices (it only asks you to enter Apple ID password) so it removes that pain point.

Spot Reviews 10/16/20

Kirkland Albacore Solid White Tuna in Water [-] This is the Costco brand tuna. I guess not band for canned tuna and it is fairly meaty but very dry. I'm spoiled cause we'd get canned tuna from my uncle's company in Peru and that was the best parts of the tuna in oil.

Trader Joe's Organic Yellow Corn Tortilla Chip Rounds [+] I've been eating the above tuna mixed with mayonnaise on tortilla chips. The tuna might be subpar, the mayo decidedly average, but these tortilla are quite good. And that alone make the snack kind of tasty.

Anime - Mezzo Forte (2001) [-] This is a two-episode OVA about a trio of private investigators who get in over their heads when the person they're hired to kidnap is actually the head of a crime family. The graphics are ok and the story is kind of bland though the ending shootout is pretty graphic. Each episode has a sex scene that can be easily cut out without losing any story (and it is for the censored version). Overall I'd say this is a waste of time.

Movie - Extraction (2020) [+]

Extraction is a Netflix action movie set in modern day India and Bangladesh. After an Indian drug kingpin's son, Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), is kidnapped by his Banglasdeshi rival a mercenary team is hired to extract Ovi, held in a Bangladheshi city.

Tyler (Chris Hemsworth) is the point man. He has a sniper to cover him, a couple of guys waiting at the escape boat, and a whole team of ops people monitoring from an unknown hotel room -- so it's really small on-the-ground presence. But Tyler is that good and manages to rescue Ovi from the gang guarding him (tbf gang thugs are not that great at fighting IRL).

But then their employer, Saju (Randeep Hooda) betrays the team because the kingpin doesn't have the money to pay the mercs. Tyler and Ovi are the only ones that escape and the highlight of the film occurs here. It's a 10+ minute action car chase sequence that is a simulated continuous shot (i.e. one camera POV that moves around without obvious cuts).

The rest of the film is fairly typical. Tyler's merc boss Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) urges him to get out of the city and leave Ovi behind. Tyler bonds with Ovi (apparently Tyler's own son recently died from an illness) and refuses to abandon him. Tyler and Saju team up to help Ovi. Action shootout trying to get Ovi across the a bridge to an extraction helicopter. People die.

It's a mostly good action film. Good special effects and I didn't notice any lack of soundtrack.

Podcast - Playing A Round With Paige Renee (2020) [+]

iHeart Radio produces several podcasts. Playing A Round with Paige Renee features former LPGA golfer Paige Renee Spiranac. She talks about golf, her experiences as being an attractive woman playing golf, and dating/relationship stuff. Everything is kept PG even when she talked about the one time an ex-bf passed around a nude of her. She is more of a golf populist, sometimes critical of the old white guy mentally that prevails in the game, both the establishment (golf courses, the ruling bodies) and players (a lot of sexism in the golf community).

There are viewer questions which are half asking about golf and the other half about her Instagram and her personal life. She has guests -- mostly other sports people who played or are involved with golfing community. She has a couple of assistants, Luke(?) I'm not sure his role, maybe sound engineer, and Tori is the producer (though maybe that means sound engineer in which case what does Luke do?). Luke plays golf and Tori does not so sometimes there are teaching Tori moments. But then there are girl talk moments and Luke fades into the background, so it's a good balance.

Overall an entertaining show even though I have zero interest in golf (though no hate, just the level of interest I have in all sports-I-don't-follow).

Spot Reviews 10/09/20

Annie's Rice Pasta Shells & White Cheddar [+] A Mac and Chess sort of product using rice pasta instead of regular wheat pasta so it's gluten free. If you're familiar with Chinese food think rice noodle dish like chow fun. Different if you're not used to it or don't expect it but actually it's good.

Movie - Dune (1984) [/] Not a bad 1980's adaptation of Dune with the biggest problem is that they spent so much time on the beginning part of the novel that the last hour was pretty much short vignettes of the rest of the novel. With Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides.

Computer Game - Rogue Company (2020) [/] This is a 4 vs 4 third person shooter played in rounds. Both teams go after the same objective (unlike CSGO or Valorant which have attack and defense teams). Various characters with different skills so that's par for the course. GerberBaby3 and RangerMeme like it which says something but I don't see it just watching people playing it.

Apple TV+ - Ted Lasso s1 (2020) [+]

The Rebound podcast really raved about Ted Lasso and I gotta say it's an excellent half hour comedy. Division II championship American Football coach Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is hired to coach Premier League soccer team AFC Richmond in England. He brings with him his assistant coach Beard (Brandan Hunt) and no soccer experience but turns out his coaching style is more about personal growth than tactics and it turns out the shy equipment manager Nathan (Nick Mohammed) has a hidden talent for soccer tactics.

Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) owns the club after a divorce from her husband and wants to run it into the ground to spite him. Higgins (Jeremy Swift) is the club president and Rebecca's toady but has really loves the team and wants it to succeed. Roy (Brett Goldstein) is the aging star who runs on anger while Jamie (Phil Dunster) is the young hotshot player who refuses to pass the ball. Keeley (Juno Temple) rounds out the main cast, a social media starlet dating Jamie but slowly gravitating towards Roy.

It's a show with low-key and distinct characters. They're not over-the-top caricatures like a sitcom (e.g. Mythic Quest) nor deep angsty people like a drama. Everybody has their arc to go through the ten episodes of season one and everybody is sympathetic. Rebecca and Jamie start out as the closet to being villains but they never are. They're both people with a flaw and the flaw drives a couple of plots without making them bad guys. It really is quite well done and I hope season two is just as good.

Computer Game - Phasmophobia (2020) [+]

Phasmophobia is an early access first-person ghost hunting game for four players. It's a modern day Ghostbusters-like game. Each mission has a set of goals (e.g. find clues, take a photo of ghost, find out ghost type), then players buy equipment and head in.

The cool thing about this game is use of sound. The game adjusts what each player hears based on distance and direction so if someone walks far away they get quieter and then silent (but there are walkie talkies). This also means that the ghost can talk to one person without the others hearing (and the game also does this visually -- the ghost can appear to one player and the other's don't see it). If you die your mic is turned off and often other players hear you start screaming before it goes dead quiet.

As a dead person you can move around ghost like but can't really do anything other than talk to other player ghosts.

Being early access there are a lot of graphical glitches but the game is quite playable.

Spot Reviews 10/02/20

Anime - Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2045 (2020) [/] This anime is set a few years after previous Ghost in the Shell stories and the first half is set in Los Angeles which is also different. Major Motoko (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) and her teammates have left Japan's Section 9 and have been mercenaries. Their latest employer is a secret government agency and the team may be disappeared afterwards so it's up to Aramaki (William Knight) and Togusa (Crispin Freeman) to find the team and extricate them... I likes the story but the CGI animation is below average and after 12 episodes it ends in a cliffhanger.

Podcast - The Zane Lowe Interview Series (2020) [/] Never heard of Zane Lowe before he was hired to be a DJ on Apple Music 1. Now he has a podcast interviewing music artists and so far it's not too bad. He's sympathetic and comradely and lets his guests talk. As someone who is not that into music artists the interviews are not fascinating -- I guess contrast with Armchair Expert where Dax Shepard is both a good interviewer and interesting by himself, Lowe is not interesting by himself so it's really up to the appeal of the guest.

Twitch - MassRefuge (2020) [/] Mass Refuge did the BotezLive intro videos (as a volunteer). I've seen him around for over a year and at time he's been good then went through a trolly phase and might have gotten kicked out of BotezLive discord for being argumentative. But the last few months he's calmed down and once again a cool guy. Anyways he just started streaming because he lost a bet and will probably be streaming for a couple of months in order to fulfill the bet. He streams chess on lichess, plays techno music and all comers, and is fairly responsive to chat.