Kevin C. Wong

February 2020

Spot Reviews

PF Chang's Home Menu: Dan Dan Noodles [+] Pork and vegetable bits with lo mein noodles. Microwave in a few minutes and it tastes pretty good.

Twitch / Chess - FuzzyGardens [/] Conor is a USC student graduating this year and he does a lot of organized dancing. But in streams it's chess and he's a lichess streamer (2k blitz rating). He's friendly and fairly good conversationalist.

Movie - Love and Other Disasters (2006) [-] British film about Jacks (Brittany Murphy), a fashion shoot assistant at Vogue who spends her time fixing up her friend's while her love life remains a mess... I found the film rather boring. The humor just didn't seem funny to me.

Netflix Movie - Io (2019) [/]

Io is a science fiction post-apocalyptic film. A deadly gas is wiping out humanity (and actually non-plant life). Luckily humanity built an outpost on Io, one of Jupiter's moons, and survivors have been fleeing there.

Sam (Margaret Qualley) is a researcher working with her father looking for a cure. She lives on a house on a hill (the gas clings to the lowlands) and travels to the valley collecting samples. But the last shuttle to Io is leaving soon and her boyfriend urges her to escape Earth.

One day Micah (Anthony Mackie) arrives in a fairly sophisticated balloon. He's here to see Sam's father because it turns out dad's broadcast urging people to stay on Earth indirectly cause Micah's wife's death. After a couple of days of waiting Micah discovers that Sam's father is never coming and she admits he died a year earlier.

Micah forces Sam to come with him and make for the last shuttle. To do that they need hydrogen, to be found in the deadly abandoned city in the valley. Can the two of them make it to safety?



Eventually Sam decides to stay and to make sure she takes off her oxygen mask and breathes the gas. In an epilogue we see Sam with her son (with Micah) sending a message to Micah out in Io.

I had to read Wikipedia to see that I missed the plot turn. Sam was born after the gas and there was a clue that bugs born after the gas were immune. So a new generation of humanity can live on Earth again.

iOS - Mario Kart Tour (2019) [+]

Mario Kart Tour is a free-to-play Mario-themed racing game from Nintendo. In each race there are eight racers, kind of simulated as other players though I don't think it's real-time competition. The objective is not necessarily to finish first but to get the most points, though finishing first, second or third gives bonus points.

First you choose a racer, then a kart, then a parafoil. There are two of each which give the most bonus, another four or six of each which give some bonus, and the rest give no bonus. You collect (or buy) racers, karts and parafoil and if you get duplicates they combine to become a bit more powerful.

A tour lasts a couple of weeks. Several races are open at the start and one is opened each day and there is also a daily bonus, so two ways to get you to come back. As you play the racer and items you use get experience. Going up in levels means they give you a few more bonus points at the start of each race. Each kart and parafoil also has a special power though I never took them into account.

Each race can give you up to five stars and this is based on the points you got in the race. You don't really get to the fifth star until you have racers and items with lots of points. Stars unlock races (ok, when I said races are "open" I meant you can play them if you get the stars, but that's pretty easy) and unlock bonus gifts (and you get more gifts if you have a monthly pass, which is $5, and there are rubies and coins you can buy to level up faster).

The races are fairly fun. Although only a limited number of courses, they are modified a little for each race so each race is still distinct. In general it's not hard to get first place and getting items and leveling them up is kind of nice. Overall a fun game and after a couple of months I've had no impulse to pay money.

Spot Reviews

Korean TV Show - Cinderella and the Four Knights #101 (2016) [/] A feisty poor girl, Eun Ha-won (Park So-dam), is hired a rich man to be the house manager for his three sons (the fourth knight being the rich man's administrative assistant). Romance ensues. The first episode was setup and didn't even get to her being hired... A bit too soap opera for me.

Fix A Dent [-] It's mobile dent repair so they come to you. Work seemed ok. They will overcharge but understandable. Also wanted to be paid by check/cash which avoids tax reporting. All in all suspicious enough that I wouldn't use them again (and I can't even find them on the web and their vehicle had logos but no contact info; they actually flagged me down and sold me their service).

That's the second time I've used a mobile car service and both times I felt overcharged so will not do this again.

Twitch - NM_Budda [/] NM John Williams is a friend of Alexandra Botez which is how I know of him. He streams Fornite, Clone Hero, Chess in mostly that order and he's good at all three. Chill small streamer.

Movie - Inside Man: Most Wanted (2019) [/]

Inside Man: Most Wanted turns out to be a sequel to Inside Man (2006). Ariella (Roxanne McKee) and her team try to rob the New York Federal Reserve and a hostage situation develops. NYPD hostage negotiator Remy (Ami Ameen) works with FBI agent and criminal psychologist Dr Brynn (Rhea Seehorn).

We soon find out that Ariella is not doing this willingly. Her team are freelancers she knows plus German muscle from her real boss, who has her brother hostage (and turns out her brother was the main villain of the first film). Ariella is doing pretty much the same heist because she helped plan the first one.

There's a mystery as to how Ariella is going to save her brother and foil the bad guys. Remy and Dr Brynn are trying to piece it from the outside but sometimes work at cross purposes.

It's a direct to video movie but fairly well done with good special effects and soundtrack. It turns out to be an interesting movie.

Star Trek: Ascendancy (2016) [+]

Star Trek: Ascendancy is a 4X game based on the Star Trek franchise. Each player plays one of the star nations. You start from a home system, explore out to find random planets and connect them via warp lines, and finally connect to the other players.

Some star systems can be colonized and others already have a native civilization. Assuming you take control you then add resource generators (on the star system disc it'll say what resources it can generate) and each turn you get those resources.

  • Production - used fo build generators and starships
  • Science - used to research technologies
  • Culture - used to colonize uninhabited systems or absorb colonized systems

Each race has a set of technology cards specific to them. You draw two and can then develop them secretly until they're done. But if another player conquers one of your Science-generating systems they might steal a technology.

Culture is used to win the game and few star systems generate it. You spend five culture to gain an ascendancy token (you start with one). These determine how many starbases and fleets you can have and are also used as a die bonus when absorbing star systems (hegemony, in contrast straight up conquering a star system with ships).

You get three trading cards and when you contact another player you can trade a card with them. You each gain more resources that way and is a simple way to represent trade relationships.

You win by getting to five ascendancy and controlling your home system, or by conquering most of the other player while retaining your home system, or via special victory conditions for some races.


I played a four player game with Federation (me), Andorian (game owner), Klingon and Vulcan (experienced players). I stayed by myself, not trying to connect to another player until late in the game. I built up as much as I could though unfortunately I didn't get any good systems and no culture-producing systems other than Earth.

Meanwhile the Klingons and Andorians waged a war which the Klingons won. The Vulcans researched and got many technologies then started whipping the Klingons. The Vulcans actually managed to win via one of their variable victory conditions: colonize ten star systems at any time.

It was a fun game. Nice components. Plays about an hour per player. Each race is distinct and plays differently and there are a couple of victory conditions so you can pursue different strategies. Would be a great game to have if I was still into Star Trek outside of TOS.

Spot Reviews

Movie - The Hunt for Red October (1990) [+] Just watched this again after many years. Still a great film, suspenseful and sticks close enough to Tom Clancy's novel.

Movie - Swing Away (2016) [/] After being suspended from the LPGA golfer Zoe (Shannon Elizabeth) hides at her aunt and uncle's on a small Greek island. She decides to help local teen Stella (Viktoria Miller) become better at golf and ends up helping Stella battle loud-mouthed American developer Glenn (John O'Hurley) in a golf match; at stake is the town's golf course which Glen wants to turn into a luxury resort... It's an ok film.

Taku Taku Peruvian Cuisine, San Mateo [/] An ok Peruvian restaurant on El Camino Real, south of the 92. A bit hard to get parking. I tried the tallarin verde (I think Emelina's is better) and chupe de camarones (very good).

TV Show - Star Trek: Picard #101 (2020) [+]

Watched the first episode of Star Trek: Picard and it was impressive. It's set a couple decades after Nemesis. Picard (Patrick Stewart) is retired and still in danger of going senile (or whatever that disease was). There's a bit about how he quit Starfleet after they didn't help the Romulan refugees (after their sun blew up according to the Star Trek 2009 movie). There's also stuff about how Androids are now hunted as rebels.

A strange woman arrives, Dahj (Isa Briones). Someone is hunting her and she had a dream that Picard would help her. Picard comes to believe that she is Data's daughter and becomes determined to help her. And to do that he's going to need help (though that's the next episode).

Production value is excellent and often movie quality (I haven't watched Discovery). There's a good metaplot setup and lots of action that doesn't involve a 79-year old Stewart. Also good that the Star Trek universe storyline is advancing once again after two series set in pre TOS days.

Quality pilot and looks to be an interesting show.

Restaurant - Urban Momo, San Mateo [+]

Urban Momo is an Indian-Chinese-Nepalese restaurant that opened up where Las Americas used to be. Came here for lunch. Setup is pretty much the same though partition wall between the restaurant and adjacent convenience store is much higher (the space used to be a bigger convenience store).

Paneer Momos ($11) - six steamed dumpling with cheese and vegetables. They have a chili sauce and a (I think) peanut sauce, the latter was very good.

Chili Chicken Bhutte Ko Bhaat ($11) - chicken and vegetables in a sauce, some cooked kale or something on the side, and fried rice. It's pretty good also.

Overall the meal was good. A little different than the usual though still Asian. Would come here again.

Spot Reviews

Apple Movie - Hala (2019) [/] Coming of age drama about Hala (Geraldine Viswanathan), an American-Pakistani teen threading a path between her Muslim and American cultures. It's fairly low key and took some patience to watch it all but I appreciate the story.

Movie - Sharon 1.2.3 (2018) [-] Sort of a guys romantic comedy. Successful tech nerd Jonah (Matt Bush) has an older girlfriend, Sharon #1 (Erinn Hayes), and is banging a coworker, Sharon #2 (Nadine Velazquez), when he meets and falls in love with Sharon #3 (Skyler Samuels), a sweet and klutzy coffee shop owner... I just didn't like the storytelling style, a bit too raunchy.

Wursthall Restaurant and Bierhaus, San Mateo [/] Relatively new restaurant in downtown San Mateo, hip and upscale. You sit on these long benches and the wooden dividers have the condiments, utensils and napkins. Had Korean Fried Chicken with a side of Mashed Potatoes. Not really to my liking but well prepared and I think some of the other dishes would be better to my tastes.

Netflix Movie - I Am Mother (2019) [+]

I Am Mother is a post-apocalyptic science fiction movie. In a research facility looking site, Mother (Rose Byrne), is raising one girl, Daughter (Clara Rugaard), born from an embryo. I guess she's supposed to be about 18 when the main plot starts (the caption says 13k days later which is like 30-odd years, oof).

[Edit: I got it, it's 13k days later but this wasn't the first Daughter. Forgot about that part.]

As Daughter prepares for her big test there is a clanging from the airlock. Who could this be? Daughter has been told that all humanity perished due to a plague. When she opens the airlock, it's a Woman (Hilary Swank).

Knowing that Mother would immediately murder the Woman to avoid the plague, Daughter hides Woman. When Mother finds out Daughter convinces Mother to spare Woman, who is taken to the infirmary because she has a gunshot wound.

Now Woman secretly tells Daughter that there was no plague. Robots wiped out humanity, robots just like Mother! Daughter starts to have doubts. Is Mother an evil robot? Or is Woman a deceitful human?...

Turns out to be a pretty good thriller. Fortunately you do get most of the answers by the end of the film.

Apple Arcade - Spelldrifter (2019) [+]

Spelldrifter is a combination tactical turn-based combat and deck building game. It's fantasy based and you have a stable of characters each with their own decks. Some of the characters:

Korghan Twice-Born - warrior
Faydin, the Sellsword - finesse warrior/swashbuckler
Lavella, Star-Touched - healer
Rohin Garrett - rogue
Renna, the Embermage - fire magic

In each combat you choose three characters and can customize their decks. Characters level up and get stars which you use to choose special abilities (and can change them out before any combat). You get gold which you use to buy more cards and getting a good card combination is nice.

In each turn everybody moves in action point order (your characters win ties). Every action costs a number of action points. Once a character goes their action point total increases and the lowest total action point combatant moves next. Big attacks take more action points and some cards take place the next turn. You have to be cognizant of when each combatant goes.

Good graphics and sounds. There's a standard fantasy storyline. I did get to the point where the two locations I can battle are both too hard. Unfortunately there's not that much grinding (or maybe too much). You can repeat old adventures but rewards for repeat are minimal, not enough to be worth it to grind, so I kind of stopped playing. But it was fun for a few hours.