Kevin C. Wong

Movie Trilogy - Star Wars Episodes 1-3 (1999-2005) [/]

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) [/]
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002) [/]
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) [/]

I watched Star Wars episodes 1-3 over the course of a month and realize I've never seen these movies in the theater nor completely until now. The Phantom Menace is the best of the three. New but familiar characters bouncing around familiar locations meeting beings that are three decades older in Star Wars episode 4. By the way, Jar Jar (Ahmed Best) is fine as a character and barely appears in the next two films (though more in Clone Wars).

Attack of the Clones is much less romantic than I expected. There is a bit of Anakin (Hayden Christensen) harboring a decade-long obsession over Padmé (Natalie Portman) and then it's suddenly she's also in love with him and they get married.

I like that the Clone Wars animated series takes place between episode 2 and 3. Once we get to Revenge of the Sith there are several characters that originated in Clone Wars making appearances. The part where the Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has suborned all the clones I guess comes from Clone Wars since it came out of the blue to me. And it's got the nice touches of how the Emperor and Darth Vader got their looks.

Overall though I kind of feel this is the weakest trilogy of the Star Wars saga. Episodes 4-6 were produced first and there's a lot of nostalgia plus they were genre-breaking at the time. Episodes 7-9 are better produced and the stories seem a bit better developed and more epic. And I guess 7-9 are treading new ground whereas 1-3 start from an unknown point but have to end setting up episode 4.

Still, I did enjoy these three films and it's nice covering the back stories that setup the following two trilogies.

Glorious Model O Wireless Mouse [/]

I very occasionally need a two-button mouse for gaming and other activities and the Apple Magic Mouse is horrible at that so I bought a Glorious Model O Wireless because I had a 20% discount (which covers shipping and a bit more).

This is a 5-button gaming mouse with programmable LED lights. It's very light (lighter than my Magic Mouse) and has really high DPI (19k programmable which I guess is simulated). It comes with a special USB cable with fabric coating so it's really flexible and less impediment if you're using the mouse in wired mode. You can disconnect the mouse and plug-in the wireless adapter. It's kind of neat that for wireless it doesn't use USB but regular WIFI and the mouse and adapter are already paired. To a PC it still looks like a regular USB-connected mouse.

This is a right-handed mouse with two thumb buttons on the side. The other buttons are standard left, right, and scroll wheel/button. The Magic Mouse is small and comfortable in my apparently small hand. The Model O is a bit too big and for now it's uncomfortable after a few hours. I guess another thing is the scroll wheel seems a bit stiffer than I'd like, or maybe it's a bit too big.

Batter lasts about a day I think, maybe 10 hours of continuous use. Maybe longer if you turn off the lights. In general I get into the habit of turning off the mouse when not in use and using the Magic Mouse which last days of continuous use.

The biggest drawback is the PC-only configuration software. I tried to use CrossOver but it doesn't install and I thought I had a chance since communication to mouse is via USB. As such I can't program the buttons (the thumb buttons default to left button) and the lights cycle in default mode which is still nice. I guess I can try my VMWare but I really don't want to use it.

Overall it's an ok mouse for me. I wish the software worked on Mac otherwise I can live with the hardware drawbacks that are not quite right for me.

Spot Reviews 01/29/21

Movie - Mission of Honor (2018) [/] A Polish film set during WW2's Battle of Britain and focusing on 303 Squadron made up of Polish fighter pilots who made it out after Germany conquered Poland. It covers the formation of the squadron, early training, and then being thrown into the battle. There's the usual cast of fighter pilot characters, a bar fight, romance with RAF WAAF, and lots of pilots dying in various ways. It's a low budget movie but the fighter combats are not too bad. Overall an interesting movie though not great.

Documentary - Fireball: Visitoers from Darker Worlds (2020) [-] A documentary on Apple TV+ about meteors and the effect they've had throughout history. Werner Herzog directs and narrates, traveling around the world to look at various impact sites and talking to local scientists (for the scientific explanations) and historians (for how it affected local culture and religion). I did not find this approach interesting. I guess I wanted more science, less about social effects.

Food - Pasta Roni Butter & Garlic [/] Sort of light on flavor which I guess means it doesn't overpower whatever you eat it with. I tend to eat Pasta Roni by itself and this one is perfectly fine solo but not my favorite.

Mini Series - The Queen's Gambit (2020) [+]

The Queen's Gambit is a Netflix 7-episode hour-long drama based on the book of the same name. It's set in 1950's and 1960's America and follows the rise of fictional woman chess player Elizabeth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy). From living in an orphanage and being taught chess by the custodian Mr Shaibel (Bill Camp) to being adopted and pursuing her neophyte chess career with the support of her adopted mother Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller), being US co-champion and then champion by beating her chess rival Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), then finally facing and beating world champion Vasily Borgov (Marcin DorociƄski) as part of an invitational tournament.

This is a series that took the chess world by storm, being very popular with everyone. The chess games shown are taken from real games and the game playing environment and moods are fairly accurate from what people have said. There is a little bit of sexism but nowhere near as bad as I've heard. Acting is good and Taylor-Joy does a good job of portraying someone emotionally detached from everything except for when it comes to chess.

Pacing is a bit slow. The first three episodes I found a bit boring. Then it starts to pick up and gets really interesting until the end.

Overall one of the better Netflix series.

Web Site - Chess.com [+] p3

Puzzles --> Puzzles. Chess.com has 150k puzzles in various categories. You can go through the puzzles and get a hint if you need it. As you solve puzzles you get a rating. All puzzles have a target time and if you beat it you get more rating. Sometimes if I can't solve a puzzle quickly I grind it until I find the answer and get like 1 point which still beats getting puzzle wrong. There is also a graph of your progress and later you can see your stats and see what categories you need to work on.

Puzzles --> Puzzle Rush. Back when this feature came out this was the reason I got a paid account so I could play it more than once a day. This is basically doing puzzles but with a 3 or 5 minute timer. If the time runs out or if you get three strikes the game ends and you're trying to solve as many puzzles as you can (and there's a leader board). There is also a survival mode with no timer but still three strikes ends the game. It's a pretty addictive mode.

Puzzles --> Puzzle Battle. After the success of Puzzle Rush they came out with Puzzle Battle which is Puzzle Rush vs another player. You're both doing the same puzzles. You have a Puzzle Battle rating which goes up and down as you win and lose games.

Puzzles --> Daily Puzzle. Like a newspaper chess puzzle.

Puzzles --> Solo Chess. Chess pieces are set up on the board. Capture pieces until there is only one left but no piece may capture more than two times and the King (if any) must be the last one standing. I guess the aim is to practice capture combinations. There is no scoring and the challenge mode is either you finish it or not so it kind of lacks gamification.

Puzzles --> Chess Drills. Here you can choose a category and practice puzzles based on a theme.

I do the Puzzles and Puzzle Rush. I just did my first Puzzle Battles today. Overall I probably use this section the most.





Spot Reviews 01/22/21

Movie - The Courier (2019) [/] An elite package courier (Olga Kurylenko) ends up protecting a witness (Amit Shah) from a professional hit team stalking them through a multi-level underground parking garage. Little do the villains know she's a former Eastern Bloc special forces. It's an ok action movie and I like the location as it reminds me of a Splinter Cell level also set in an underground parking garage.

Rice-A-Roni Cilantro Lime [+] I do love cilantro rice and this version is not bad. A little subtle with the seasoning but if you follow the instructions it comes out good. Sometimes I use a pan where I cooked meat in and that flavoring overpowers the rice so I have to stop doing that.

iOS Browser Extension - Hush (2021) [+] A simple extension that blocks the "Accept All Cookies" privacy warning every website added after the EU passed a big privacy law. If you always ignore it then this extension is for you. All it does is hide that prompt -- if you turn it off and revisit the web site it'll ask you again. I also checked that Firefox Focus doesn't do this so does not overlap. There is also a macOS 11+ version.

Movie - Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) [+]

Some Kind of Wonderful is still one of my favorite teen romance movies. Keith (Eric Stoltz) is a high school art geek and his best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) is a tomboy punk drummer. He's always admired popular girl Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson) from afar and finally gets the courage to ask her out. It just so happens that she wants revenge on her boyfriend Hardy (Craig Sheffer) so she says yes.

The second half of the movie is this awkward romantic date that Keith has put so much money and effort putting together. This is where Keith and Amanda's views of each other collide. There are misconceptions but they learn there are good things about the other and maybe there's something there. But in the end Amanda realizes that Watts is the girl for Keith which leads to a nice ending.

I've seen this movie a few times and you do start noticing details in the dead space. Every shot tends to focus on one person who is doing something but it's the reaction of the other actor that gives the shot more meaning. I look forward to watching this film again in a couple of years.

Computer Game - Bomber Crew (2017) [/]

Bomber Crew is a cartoony WW2 bomber simulation game. In the base game (there are many DLCs) you have a Lancaster bomber with a 7-person British crew: Pilot, Bombardier, Engineer, Navigator, Radio, two Gunners. Each crew station has several functions and during a real-time mission you have to keep juggling among the crew to get them to do their tasks, though the only "click at the right time" task is bombing and photographing. All other tasks are more tagging a target or clicking a command and letting the crew do the appropriate task.

You get money and intelligence after each mission. Money to get more equipment and upgrade it. Intelligence unlocks new equipment (both the bomber and your crew have equipment). Crew gain experience and level up to improve their skills -- veteran crew can handle a secondary station which is a useful backup.

There is a main campaign of a fair number of missions. Each round you get a choice of missions and at certain points there is a required mission to move to the next phase of the campaign. There is also a challenge mode with special missions.

I played this game a little bit. Seems to play smoothly. I quickly discovered that I don't like the real-time nature of the game. Well, not so much the RT as that there is no way to pause the game. You can slow down time but that has a charge that runs out. I guess that makes it more realistic trying to handle multiple things especially a bombing run but I found it too much.

Strangely, I remember being able to do an RT bomber game with The Dam Busters but that had simple joystick controls and one-button to switch to each station. I just found it really hard to switch around the various Bomber Crew views and then issue orders. So a game that looks interesting but not for me.

Spot Reviews 01/15/21

Anime - Queen's Blade (2009) [/] This is a 12-episode half hour anime series based on the Queen's Blade combat books. Like the combat books there is a lot of T&A and upper body nudity (the last of which is not really in the combat books). On the good side it does give backgrounds of all the characters, which the combat books do not go into at all. The various plots are sort of tied together by Leina who appears in almost every episode though usually not as a central character. Still, it's not an interesting series because of all the characters and introducing them just takes too much screen time.

Computer Game - Deadly Days (2019) [-] A $12 roguelite zombie survival game. You control a group of characters and the main control is clicking on a spot to have the characters move there and clicking on a loot location to have one character loot it. Otherwise though the characters move and act randomly and behave more like a cloud of insects. Collect people, food, gears, and items and slowly improve your party to eventually get to the meat factory producing zombie-creating burgers. I found the game too fast-paced and lack of character control is pretty tilting.

Twitch - BotezLive - Blockchamps event (2020) [+] Blockchamps was a chess tournament where 8 Minecraft streamers competed for $25k in prizes. BotezLive hosted the event (you'll need to be a channel subscriber to watch the VOD or there will be an edited version on their YouTube channel) and I watched the whole thing, which ran 6 hours including many breaks. The participants were beginner chess players but very entertaining throughout and some pretty exciting games.

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.