Personal Blog

The Qin Empire

The Qin Empire (大秦帝国之裂变) is a Chinese television costume drama that aired in 2009.

The Qin Empire

About

This is the store of how the Qin Empire restored itself from former glory by hiring outsider Shang Yang to implement a series of reforms.

This show has three seasons, we just watched the first, a total of 51 episodes.

Cast

Hou Yong (侯勇) as Duke Xiao of Qin
Born in 1967 now 56 years old, his first television appearance was in the year 2000 and then movies in 2002.

Wang Zhi Fei (王志飞) as Shang Yang
Born in 1965 now 58 years old, his first television exposure came in 1993 and in movies from 2011.

Review

This was most likely an ambitious project for the writers, actors and film crew especially to convey the scale of Qin and its army.

The story seemed solid although some left feedback that this was not quite like how things really went down.

The acting was good as it was bad. I would say 75% of the acting was good. The other 25% was really bad due to scenes of over acting which really spoiled much of the drama.

There was one actor who had an extreme character shift a quarter of the way into the series then within one episode grew up a couple of years and replaced by another actor who looked nothing like the first one. Totally bizarre.

Did grown men really kneel down crying uncontrollably when their leaders were sad or unhappy about something? Maybe they did back then but it was pretty annoying and too false.

When a large crowd in the army were starting to sing they were replaced by stock singers dubbed over them. A song that they repeated throughout the series. It was most likely impossible to organise such a large crowd singing on an outside broadcast so it may have been easier just to replace them with stock audio.

There was something wrong with the audio on the Netflix version we saw, the voices were just a little out of sync. Maybe they were dubbed but still speaking in Mandarin.

The show was definitely slow in spots with the conversation being irrelevant and I kept dropping off during those parts.

Summary

Well, despite my negative comments quite a few people did enjoy the series and overall got reviewed positively elsewhere. However, I will only give it 2/5.

Where to Watch

All three seasons can be seen on Netflix Canada but not sure where else it will be available.

2024-02-19T00:27:31+00:0019 February 2024|Review China|

Another Favourite Restaurant Closes

Tofun Pot was self-described as an Asian Fusion restaurant set in a small mall in South Surrey, British Columbia. I say “was” because all indications suggest that it is now closed for business which we are really sad about.

The menu included lots of different types of drinks and the food was mainly Korean. One thing on their menu that we hadn’t seen elsewhere was Army Stew. Budae-jjigae (부대찌개) contains many items including spam, noodles, sausage, kimchi and more. It is a very spicy dish, just a bit too hot for me. In restaurants the pot is bought to your table and cooks on a burner, although already part cooked.

When I ate there I couldn’t eat the Army Stew but would try one of the their other dishes, all were really good. We will really miss the restaurant.

2024-02-02T21:33:03+00:002 February 2024|Photo Gallery|

Journey to the West

Journey to the West (宇宙探索编辑部) is a Chinese comedy sci-fi movie that was released on 17 October 2021.

About

Tang Zhi Jun has believed in the existence of UFOs and aliens for years, however, he hasn’t had any sightings of such. He believes there is some interstellar meaning to the static in his teleivision. The newspaper he runs with some employees is not doing well and can’t afford the heating bill. Then a mysterious film emerges online, he along with a bunch of other misfits, go to investigate. Can the teenager with a cooking pot on his head bring him hope of an encounter?

Cast

Yang Hao Yu (杨皓宇) as Tang Zhi Jun
He graduated from the Performance Department at the Shanghai Theater Academy and is a very popular actor appearing in many films and TV shows. As I write this he is contracted for 7 new TV series and 2 new films.

Wang Yi Tong (王一通) as Sun Yi Tong
Not only did he star in the movie but he was also the co-screenwriter. He is also a director and editor. Pretty impressive.

Review

This movie was shot as a “fly on the wall” as though someone was doing a documentary on the UFO hunter and his team. That was quite an interesting perspective and may have been tough to do throughout a 2 hour movie.

The actors played there parts well, virtually everyone was quite off the wall. I think they employed extra’s in talking roles to appear in the movie, anyone in a village and some were very convincing.

The story was interesting and unique, very off the wall.

I feel the actors were really into their parts, especially the main character actor.

After an hour of watching the movie we were very bored, it was dragging so much. We then fast forwarded to the conclusion and it did have a surprising end. The movie was 1 hours 52 minutes in length, way too long for this story and they could have reduced it significantly to make it feel more punchy.

Ni Ni recommended this movie on her Instagram account, so it drew some attention because she is so popular. She said it wasn’t a science fiction movie but I guess only a small part of it was.

Summary

I will give this a 1/5, not a very good score I’m afraid but I was really bored. I did try to put a more positive spin on it.

2024-01-18T05:19:08+00:0018 January 2024|Review China|

Amazon AI Failures

I notice some Tech media today is reporting the lazy use of AI when placing products on Amazon, there are some very “amusing” failures.

Couple of the articles I have seen are as follows:

Why would anyone buy from sellers who can’t even get the title of their products right and don’t check the AI output once they are online? Also, I’m quite surprised that Amazon doesn’t have a review process that catches these out.

It appears some have been taken down but I found one just prior to writing this article.

Amazon Strange Product Title

Also, I noticed this following product which hasn’t got the best title in the world but the price is CAD $13,000.19. That is a ridiculous price for a plastic toilet brush. So, when I posted it to social media some say it could be related to money laundering, well, I’m not sure about that but it does look suspicious. Over a month ago I wrote to Amazon about the product but they still haven’t done anything to correct it, not sure whether they are lazy or don’t care. Today I posted a question on the product, maybe that will raise some attention to it. If they reply I will post an update here.

Amazon Loo Brush

It’s always best to take extra care when ordering products on Amazon, it’s like going to an open air market, most people will be great but there are always going to be bad actors. I generally ignore the reviews, I don’t know whether they are fake or legitimate. For some products it is better to pay more and go to the store. Amazon Canada is often more expensive than other outlets including stores anyway.

2024-01-12T22:04:42+00:0012 January 2024|Technology|

Too Many Marketing Emails

I made the mistake of providing my email address to a store and I won’t be doing that again. Some respect a consumers privacy and the law but some don’t, and once a bad actor has your details it’s difficult to get rid of them.

The Shoe Company aka DSW

I just went in to buy a pair of shoes, I did get what I want and the product was good. However, I mistakenly provided them my email address. Before I even got to the car across the street I had received a cheesy marketing email from them so I unsubscribed.

I had thought that was the end of it but they kept emailing me, I unsubscribed every time. So, one day I just had enough and sent them an stern email. I also blacklisted their domain and IP address, so even if they responded I would never receive it.

Even that wasn’t the end of the story, they used an outsourcing contractor to contact me with a “how are we doing” survey. So I blacklisted the domain and IP address of that company too, I never completed the survey of course. Hopefully, I will now never hear from the again.

What To Do At The Store

A store may ask you for your email address and/or phone number before they have even started the transaction, just say “no”. If they press for it then I would just say “its none of your business”. You don’t have to provide the information to buy anything unless of course you are registering a product for future support or a warranty. They may even ask for an email to send the receipt to, just ask for a hard copy. Of course, its always best to remain polite and smile, the check out staff are just doing the job they’ve been told to do and they might even do the same when shopping themselves. If it becomes too difficult then I would personally walk out the store without making a purchase.

Loyalty Cards

If you have a loyalty card with a store then there is some kind of private information they have obtained from you at some point. I noticed one store has actually done away with them and buying a sale item, or other items come to that, no longer requires that card. That store was Haggens in the US, I was pleasantly surprised by that move.

Your Email Account

If you do want to give out an email to stores, and go on their e-newsletter list, I would recommend not using your main account, create one specifically for mailing lists and subscriptions.  That way, it keeps the junk separate from your day to day personal or business communication.

Assuming you only want to deal with one email account, and depending on what type of email supplier you have, it is possible to filter your messages in some kind of way, such as redirect them to a folder. You might be able to do this at the server level at your web host or by creating a rule or filter within your email program. I found this on YouTube for Gmail accounts.

I made a mistake and I’m now going through the steps to take back control as many others can do.

2024-01-11T00:18:41+00:0011 January 2024|Customer Service, Technology|

The Uncanny Counter 2

The Uncanny Counter 2: Counter Punch (경이로운 소문2: 카운터 펀치) is a South Korean TV program that was broadcast on tvN, OCN and Netflix between 29 July to 3 September 2023.

About

In season two The Counters face an ultimate evil being that has take possession of one of their friends.

Cast

Cho Byeong Kyu (조병규) as So Moon
He initially wanted to be a footballer but then went into acting enjoying Shakespeare type roles until his big break onto the small screen in 2015.

Yoo Joon Sang (유준상) as Ga Mo Tak
He started his on screen career in the mid-1990s but is now directing his 3rd movie.

Kim Se Jeong (김세정) as Do Ha Na
She is a South Korean singer having been in two girl bands. She has been in TV Drama since 2016.

Yeom Hye Ran (염혜란) as Chu Mae Ok
Her first main role came with season 1 of Uncanny Counter although she has been acting on the big screen since 2003.

Yoo In Soo (유인수) as Na Jeok Bong
He plays a new main character for season 2, his career started in 2017 on the big and small screen.

Review

The story line was ok although slow in parts. It was interesting to see them introduce a character of ultimate evil, so to speak. It was fairly slow in parts and maybe they didn’t have enough content to fill the 12 episodes at the length that they were. Probably more content or less number of episodes.

The black slime parts of the alternate world to me was unnecessary, I felt for the actors having to do that.  I wouldn’t have done.

The special effects were brilliant going to new lengths than the first season. However, it was more violent than it needed to be, could open it to a wider audience if some of the gore wasn’t there.

I liked how the first season was based out of a cosy restaurant but not sure the Amazon like warehouse really worked for me. Maybe they did it for the specific fight scenes they were introducing later on.

I’m sorry to say that season 2 was a bit of a let down. The first season was new and original but the second felt like a repeat. Maybe there should have been only been one season, I don’t think they should do a season 3 although I have no idea if one is planned. Having said that it was entertaining and managed to get through all 12 episodes.

Where to Watch

The show can be found on Netflix along with season 1.

2024-01-06T00:24:20+00:006 January 2024|Review South Korea|

The Invisibles

The Invisibles (隱形戰隊) is an action, drama, crime TV show that was broadcast on TVB Jade and Youku between 6 March to 14 April 2023.

About

The stories behind two well trained sections of the Hong Kong Police; POTT (Phantom Operation and Tactic Team) and CTRU (Counter Terrorism Response Unit) fighting organized crime and terrorist type incidents as they tackle their own drama’s and romances.

Cast

Kenneth Ma (馬國明) as Ocean
The actor has won “Most Popular Male Television Character” four times. His family had moved to Canada where he studied Mechanical Engineering at UBC.
Instagram

Natalie Tong (唐詩詠) as Madam Q
The actress is a former professional model and has won numerous awards.
Instragram

Joel Chan (陳山蔥) as Sir Cool
He used to work in a vintage clothing store and some other jobs but made a breakthrough on the show “Legal Mavericks”.
Instagram

Alex Lam (林子善) aka Jazz Lam as Namy
He is best known for playing unconventional and comedic characters. He is also known for singing and bodybuilding/fitness.
Instagram

Review

I would put this at the top of the list of Hong Kong shows I have ever seen.

It had a great line up of TVB actors who appear, at least from the “making of” videos I’ve seen, gel well together.

The best character on the show was Namy played exceptionally well by Alex Lam. The character was disabled, shy, vulnerable, emotionally delicate and longing to be loved. If it wasn’t for this character I’m not sure the show would have been the same.

The other great character was played by Ruco Chan who we are used to seeing being the hero. I couldn’t begin to imagine him in an evil role but he did a brilliant job at being very creepy. It’s good to see actors try their hand at different roles.

The story was kind of typical; good vs the bad guys. The action was filmed particularly well, some scenes were “edge of your seat”. It had a good mix of action, romance and humour. The characters developed well, one might have started out disliking someone but that changed later on.

The extended families of the main characters were typical of Hong Kong dramas. They could have tried something different but I guess that is what works and the audience is happy with that scenario.

The last episode wrapped up most of the events during the series pretty well.

Summary

Very good series, I would rate it as 5/5.

Where to Watch

This is available on TVBAnywhere in North America. Not sure where else you can see it in the world.

2024-01-02T22:37:27+00:002 January 2024|Review Hong Kong|

Customer Service 2023

Every year I summarize my customer service experiences for the year just past. As usual, I had some good and bad situations to deal with.  I will talk about the good elsewhere in the website to give them a promo, however, these are the bad.

Costco

In the past I’ve had some bad experiences with Costco regarding their poor remarks towards LGBTQ people. When I phoned them earlier in 2023 I asked if I could book an appointment for “my partner and I” they then went onto assume I was married to a female. I would have though, especially in a health environment, that I would get this anymore but I guess it continues.

DHL

A museum in London I ordered something from was sent by DHL. I had never had issues with this company before but multiple problems for this order. Not only did they charge me an extortionate fee for “brokerage” through customs, which means they don’t do anything really, they actually got three different addresses for me. the items are not supposed to be customs chargeable either, so seems like a mess.

Etsy

I ordered something from a seller on Etsy and it was incomplete. It wasn’t the suppliers fault but the Etsy system. The Etsy customer service function is just awful. They have conflicting policies; one area says you aren’t allowed to contact them until 48 hours after speaking to the seller, another area says 120 hours, their contact area is blocked off until that time has passed. Even after that I found the only way for them to pay attention is go through the “account deletion” process, you can’t even make a complaint. After about a month they finally contacted me saying “dear friend” for which I replied “I am a customer, not your friend” then asked them to proceed with account deletion.

HSBC Canada

I haven’t had any issues with them as such but this year they’ve been sending out survey after survey to me. I went in one branch to get some cash out and got a survey about my experience. I’m not sure why they are doing this so close to their merger with RBC (see Government of Canada announcement), maybe it’s to keep their marketing staff in a job.

Purolator

Another courier company bad experience. I had ordered something, I got note to say while I was out they “left the parcel on my doorstop OR with a person in the building”. Well, that turned out to be untrue but the worst of it came later when their customer service continued with other lies about the parcel and where it was. They were in a right mess. A few days later the parcel turned up from one of their vans. So, if they had made a mistake I wish they would just admit it and then something could be done to resolve it, or the sending company replace it. I called the supplier and told them not to send my orders via Purolator again but via Canada Post.

Royal Mint

Normally, Royal Mint are awesome and have set excellent standards for themselves. However, this year has been a struggle when I ordered a subscription type coin set. For some reason they had my address wrong on the subscription although it was correct everywhere else. So, my credit card was rejected the first time, they said they changed the address, but it also happened for the second and third coin too. The pricing was supposed to be consistent per coin but that’s been different too. The fourth coin is yet to be produced so we’ll see if that goes pear shaped.

Summary

Compared with what is happening in the world these are not big problems but they do affect their business as people will complain if these issues are consistent for other customers, from viewing the Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot websites they are with exception to Royal Mint

2024-01-01T23:07:25+00:001 January 2024|Customer Service|

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg (无双) is a Hong Kong action thriller movie that was released on 4th October 2018. The film was released under the name of “The Counterfeiter” in the UK.

Project Gutenberg

About

A cowardly and struggling artist-turned-criminal named Lee Man (Aaron Kwok) is extradited from a prison in Thailand to Hong Kong to help the police track down a mysterious and fearsome criminal genius known only as Painter (Chow Yun Fat).
(Via Viki)

Cast

Chow Yun Fat (周潤發)
Obviously this actor is one of the most well-known Hong Kong actors that there ever was.

Aaron Kwok (郭富城)
Another very popular actor, as I write this he has 7 film projects coming up. He is busy.

Review

At first this movie seemed quite boring but I think it was slow to get going. Maybe they could have reduced it from its 2 hours 10 minutes length.

However, the action started and the movie got better. There is a huge twist towards the end and its worth watching the film just for that. I will say that the twist wasn’t written very well and could have been explained better. The twist explained a scene that only lasted a few seconds at the beginning of the movie, maybe that was a hint as to what was coming.

The action scene in the village was very well done, probably the highlight of the movie.

I have to admit the scenes based in Canada were quite amusing and I notice some others have called the producers out on those snippets. However, those scenes were filmed here in Vancouver, BC.

The acting was alright, not sure if it was the right role for Chow Yun Fat since he looked a little out of place and I’ve not seen any recent good scripts for him.

Evidently, the film had a budget of USD38.3m and it made USD188m which is good news.

If you have 2+ hours to kill, it’s worth stopping by to watch it.

Summary

It was OK, I will give it a 3/5. It receives mainly average to good rating on other sites.

Where To Watch

I watched it on Viki but I understand it’s also on Tubi.

2023-12-30T05:49:57+00:0030 December 2023|Review Hong Kong|

2023 in Tech

It’s been quite an interesting year regarding technology and social media, so this is what has happened in my world.

Social Media

I have kept clear from social media somewhat this year, maybe because the world is in such a mess reading more about it makes me depressed. Also, the constant barrage of hearing about Trump depresses me too.

  • Twitter/X – It’s been over a year now since I left the platform and I don’t miss how toxic it’s become.  Mr Musk has certainly destroyed it further.
  • Facebook – I am still on there but don’t post frequently, only 5% of my friends actually use it now. I will delete my account there in the near future, there will be a minority of people who would keep in touch, probably can count them on one hand.
  • Instagram – I deleted all my posts and just view what other’s put up, mainly museums and art galleries. As Facebook, I will most likely delete my account in the near future.
  • Threads – I was on there for one day, pretty much says it all.
  • Mastodon – I am on this platform more frequently given its a non-profit and feels like a safe place. However, there is potential connectivity with the Meta’s Threads so I will have to monitor what happens when there is more information available. They have connected to Flipboard and followed a couple of entities there but not seen any posts come through.
  • Pixelfed – Also part of the “Fediverse” this is the new Instagram for me although I don’t post that often. Being a non-photographer doesn’t provide me with much impact.

China

Earlier in this year I found out China is blocking my website. Upon further investigation it looked as though they blocked it in some, but not all, areas of the country. I was advised it was because I used Google Analytics and placed YouTube videos in some of my posts. The Chinese firewall blocks Google. I also understand it also blocks the DuckDuckGo search engine. It’s interesting to note that my website is linked from Chinese search engines.

I received a notification from Google Search Console that iQiyi, the Chinese TV maker/platform, had asked Google to remove links to my review of Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty. The message suggested that they wanted to control all messaging about the program. I removed the content from my post even though the company didn’t have the courtesy to contact me directly or go through the usual DMCA rules about removing copyrighted material. Not sure why they wouldn’t want their programs promoted but it’s no big deal for me to distance myself from them, they certainly aren’t going to make friends with this attitude though.

If I have any more stress from China I may just drop all related reviews from this website and just stop doing all reviews. We’ll see how things go.

Other Tech

  • Microsoft Outlook – I am disappointed with what Microsoft have done with New Outlook. It’s been 3 years since they been working on this and functionality is more advanced with other email programs. I’ve tried Apple Mail and it’s really slow, there are many issues with Mozilla Thunderbird too so those aren’t really doable for me.
  • Tap Forms 5 – This is a database software for Mac that I do most of my work in, I created my own CRM in it. This is now my vital tool of choice.
  • Cloud – I stopped using Microsoft OneDrive and now use either external drives or iCloud.  I found OneDrive fairly hit and miss to use.
  • Computer – I have a souped up 2017 iMac and I know I will have to replace it at some point. With Apple’s current offerings I’m not sure what I would get, either way it would cost me an arm and a leg. The 2023 iMac is very disappointing at only 24″ so this wouldn’t be worth it. I guess we’ll see what happens in the future.
  • Adobe – Although the software is expensive I am pleased with the progress the company is making. I tried out their Generative Fill/AI tools in Photoshop, they appear hit and miss right now. I have used it to clean up old photos with either extremely impressive or very poor results. I look forward to see how this feature develops.
  • AI – Aside from Adobe above, I have played with other online AI tools. They are quite amusing but don’t have a real need for them right now. I have made several moves to protect my assets, in particular this website, from text and pictures being utilized by these companies.
  • Joplin – This is now my notes program of choice, been using it a while and it suits me perfectly. Apple Notes and Microsoft One Note are really slow to sync.
  • Apple Calendar – This is ok for my needs, the New Outlook one has too many issues, Thunderbird Calendar is unusable.

Web Site Security

For my client websites more of my time is taken up with security issues. The constant barrage is tiring. December has been a fairly quiet month though.

For my website, I have blocked Russia and Belarus so I don’t have any security issues at all. For the reasons stated above I have also blocked China.

News and RSS

Meta has blocked news links on their site, this is a good explainer from the BBC. As I discovered, non-news websites can be blocked, Facebook and Instagram have never been to bright with their “algorithms”. This is obviously another reason to keep off Meta entities but my main source of news has always been via RSS feeds and more so during 2023.

2023-12-24T18:24:16+00:0024 December 2023|Social Media, Technology|