Kevin C. Wong

November 2022

Movie - Attack on Finland (2022) [+]

Attack on Finland (Omerta 6/12 outside the USA) is an action/thriller movie set in Finland and Belorussia. During a winter gala event in the presidential palace a group of terrorists attack and kidnap the Finnish president, an important NATO general with his bodyguard and some other people.

The response team includes Max Tanner (Jasper Pääkkönen) and the bodyguard is his former partner Sylvia Madsen (Nanna Blondell) when they were both seconded to EU Interpol special forces or something like that. The setting moves from the palatial hostage setting to a Belorussian abandoned military base where the bad guys take their hostages. Tanner has to solo it because Finland doesn't want to start a war with Belorussia but Madsen is also not going to passively remain a hostage forever...

I'm quite impressed with the visuals and cinematography. It's very polished and very European. Good amount of explosions and destruction for a $10M movie. It's a complete story and doesn't set up a sequel but it also doesn't, like, kill every character and preclude a sequel which I'd be willing to see.

Audio Book - Only Love Can Break Your Heart (2020) [+]

Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a young adult novel coming of age story about Reiko, a Southern California teenager entering her junior year of high school. She's recently mostly recovered from a long depression after the death of her older sister Miko, who Reiko keeps seeing and interacting with. Reiko starts to befriend Seth, sort of a loner young man and not a popular kid like Reiko and her friends.

Secretly they share a friendship but the secretiveness eventually strains their relationship and then Reiko kisses another boy and breaks Seth's trust. We enter the last part of the book where Reiko tries to win Seth back and starts to realize how much she abused him in small ways but then once Seth changes Reiko starts to realize maybe Seth had his own issues too.

Eventually it comes back to Miko and Reiko's relationship with the rest of her family: mom and dad and younger brother. And the only way for Reiko to repair herself and those relationships is to finally come to grip with Miko's death and say goodbye...

It's an 8-hour audio book read by Cristina Vee. It's sort of slow moving and placid yet interesting. It's not melodrama so the fact that Reiko and Seth never really reconcile is more like "that's how life is sometimes". Overall I did enjoy it though I'm way out of the target audience.

Spot Reviews 11/25/22

Book - Roger Craig's Tales from the San Francisco 49ers Sideline (2004) [/] With the help of long-time 49ers beat reporter Matt Maiocco this book contains a plethora of anecdotes from Roger Craig mostly covering his time with the 49ers and a bit of college and afterwards ending with thoughts about the current 2004 year team. It is all anecdotes or thoughts each a few paragraphs length which makes for a somewhat disjointed but easy read. I found it interesting and Craig is very positive about his experiences and the 49ers team in general, the most ironically humorous are his thoughts on the current team and coach (this would be Dennis Erickson's 2nd year as head coach) and unfortunately I don't think any of his predictions panned out. Overall an entertaining read.

Movie - It Happened One Night (1934) [/] In this Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert romantic comedy, a spoiled heiress (Colbert) sneaks away by bus to meet her beloved. Gable is a down-to-earth newspaper reporter who recognizes Colbert and makes a deal to help her in return for an exclusive story. On the way they clash and slowly fall for each other... It's better than I expected. Apparently a classic though perhaps I'd only consider it that in light of the year released.

Popeyes Spicy Blackened Chicken Sandwich [/] This is a new menu item. Fast food-sized bun, fried chicken breast, mayo (with a bit of ketchup or something), pickles (which I omitted) for $5. I guess it's ok, not especially tasty but fine for a change of pace. I'd rather have the fried chicken.

Movie - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) [+]

Wakanda Forever is a sequel to Black Panther and since Chadwick Boseman died this movie starts out with the Black Panther recently deceased and Shuri (Letitia Wright) not able to cope with it. A year later the US government finds Vibranium deep in the ocean but their research ship is attacked and everyone is killed and the world kind of blames Wakanda trying to protect their Vibranium monopoly.

Turns out it is Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) and his Talokan people (MCU changes Namor and his people to be descendants of the Mayans rather than Atlanteans) who are so xenophobic they want no one to find out about their existence. Namor deigns to reveal himself to Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Shuri, making the Wakandans responsible for keeping the humans out of the oceans hunting for Vibranium and he also wants the Vibranium detector's inventor killed.

Shuri is able to find the inventor -- college student Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) -- and goes with Okoye (Danai Gurira) to go fetch her for protective custody before the Feds or Talokan's get to her. Once Wakanda has Riri they refuse to give her up to be murdered leading to a Talokan-Wakanda war which the Wakandans even with all their high tech may not win...

Lots of action. Introduction of a major new character to the MCU. And by the end of the film a new Black Panther. Marred a bit by the long Namor backstory scenes and the Wakandans thinking going out on a big flat topped ship to fight the Talokan fish people was somehow a good idea. Overall I think it's a fine movie and a worthy follow-up to Black Panther.

Casa Sanchez Foods [+]

Casa Sanchez is a local family business making since the 1950's.

Casa Sanchez Thin & Light Tortilla Chips [+] I often see these at the grocery store on sale 2 for $7 so I always thought of them as cheap. But actually they're pretty good. I like thin chips and these are not too thin so they don't break easily. They taste fine to me.

Casa Sanchez Thick & Crispy Tortilla Chips [/] These chips are fine too though too thick for my tastes.

Casa Sanchez Pico de Gallo Chunky Salsa [+] I've been on and off trying different store salsas and finally found this one. You can see the diced tomatoes and onion and other ingredients. It's not a purée like every other store salsa I've seen. Tastes good with a bit of spiciness. Looking forward to trying out Casa Sanchez's other salsas.

Spot Reviews 11/18/22

Movie - That's Amor (2022) [+] A cable tv level romantic movie. Sofia (Riley Dandy) loses her high-powered job and moves in with mom who in order to cheer her up signs them up for a cooking class where Sofia meets assistant chef Matias (Isaac Gonzalez Rossi) and sparks fly. Also has some really yummy looking foods. Even though I know what to expect the movie delivers and makes me feel good at the end.

Audio Book - Vicarious (2022) [/] About 100 years in the future Earth is flooded and only High Earth (a city) is left, where the inhabitants live idly served by robots and watch their VR tv shows. Asher (voiced by Wil Wheaton), a High Earth programming director for the most popular show Ignis: Live, and Mission (voiced by Katherine McNamara), one of the unsuspecting inhabitants of Ignis. The people on Ignis believe they're on an asteroid ship heading towards another star, leaving behind a dead Earth. Whilst they are on Ignis, it never launched, instead it was repurposed as a tv show filled with memory re-programmed volunteers and it's been 50 years with Ignites living and dying for a tv show. The story is about how Asher eventually realizes he loves Mission and tries to save her from the big prime time event: a manufactured disaster in her habitat that will kill hundreds...

It's an interesting self-contained story (in that I don't think it's set up for sequels). I feel Asher is more the main character since he's the one doing stuff and therefore Wheaton does most of the narration, I'd guess about 2/3rds. We switch to Mission as she lives her life but the way the story is set up she is more carried by events than doing stuff (I thought there was a possibility when Mission noticed one of the High Earth fixers disguised as her best friend but that came to nought). In the end, although it's nice hearing McNamara narrating, you can cut out almost all Mission's story (except towards the end) and the novel would have the same storytelling impact.

Apple Arcade - Kings of the Castle (2019) [/] An FPS-style kids game where you run around an island collecting coins and avoiding traps/enemies until you get to the end and free the prince. It's vaguely like Super Mario Bros. This being a kids game the gameplay seemed a bit boring to me and I quickly got motion sickness playing with a controller. Apparently it's multiplayer so would be more fun with multiple people running around on the map.

Apple TV+ - For All Mankind s3 (2022) [+]

For All Mankind season 3 continues Apple TV+'s alt-history space race show. [SPOILERS]

We jump a few years forward to 1992. The first three episodes are setup to create a three-way race to Mars:

  • USA: Led by Danielle Poole (Krys Marshall) and includes Ed Baldwin's daughter Kelly (Cynthy Wu).
  • Russia: New characters. Their ship uses engine designs given to them by head of NASA Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt)
  • Helios Aerospace: A tech company headed by the brilliant Dev Ayesa (Edi Gathegi), who brings in Karen Baldwin (Shantel VanSanten) and hires several people from NASA including Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) to head the mission.
In episode 4 we jump to 1996 as the spacecraft take off then land on Mars and try to do science/exploration in a few months before their return window closes.

After a space catastrophe USA and Russia combine their surviving teams and land on Mars first but even though cooperating each team has their own priorities. Meanwhile the Helios team has a big ship and lots of resources but a ticking time bomb in Danny Stevens (Casey W Johnson) who has been slowly feeling the pressure and started taking drugs to cope.

Back on Earth, NASA engineer Aleida Rosales (Coral Peña) realizes the Russians stole her engine designs and is determined to find the NASA mole while being subtly blocked by Margo. Danny's brother Jimmy Stevens (David Chandler), still bitter from the deaths of his parents and blaming NASA for a coverup, falls in with an extremist group that threatens NASA. President Ellen Wilson (Jodi Balfour) reaches a crisis that threatens her administration and legacy when her husband has an affair then lies to Congress about it...

The really interesting parts are the race to Mars and then being on Mars. Reminds me of the National Geographic Mars (2016) fictional tv series that ran two seasons. They had 13 episodes and less characters/back story so could concentrate more on what it would be like to colonize Mars. For All Mankind gives us a more dramatic/character-focused take.

Season 4 moves to early 2000's though no indication of the big thing (season one ended showing a big Lunar moon base, season two ended with a brief shot of astronauts setting foot on Mars, season three ends with a shot of Margo waking up in some Eastern Bloc city).

United States Constitution, Annotated [+]

After half a dozen years I read over 2000 pages of the United States Constitution, Annotated (2014). This is the text of the Constitution and amendments with each section followed by a bunch of commentary with citations. The commentary is mostly Supreme Court cases that were based on the section and how that section was interpreted to apply and how the interpretations have changed over time.

It's interesting to see how such a relatively short document creates so much case law because the Constitution is mostly written in plain language which then allows a lot of interpretation. Sometimes the Supreme Court interprets the words based on what the writers were thinking, what the voters were thinking. Sometimes it's strict that way and sometimes the Supreme Court extrapolates with the intention behind those words, with how the people who wrote them might have interpreted their words a hundred or two hundred years later. And they are both fine ways of interpreting the Constitution.

There is another 800 pages listing all Federal laws struck down by the Supreme Court, then all State and local laws pre-empted by Federal laws or struck down by the Supreme Court, and finally all Supreme Court decisions overruled by later Supreme Court decisions.

The current Constitution Annotated is a very nice looking web site with lots of hyperlinks. For me it's a bit harder to navigate than reading a PDF which has citations at the bottom of each page (I like to see citations in-page because a lot of times citations have a bit of extra explanatory text). Still, I guess this version is better since it's a living document that is updated periodically.

Addendum: I did find a web site that has the PDF versions: Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation. The last complete revision is 2017 with a 2020 supplement.

Spot Reviews 11/11/22

Apple Arcade - LEGO Brawls (2019) [/] A Smash-type eight-player brawling game. Two game types: brawl where two teams try to stay near a control point for the most time, free for all where it's most individual kills. Good graphics and ok game play but not my type of game.

Apple Arcade - Murder Mystery Machine (2019) [-] In this game you go through a room talking to people and collecting clues. Then on a clue board tie clues together which can open up another round of talking and clue collecting. Finally answer one or more who, what, why, how questions if you have the clue associations set up right. I found it a bit too cryptic and the gameplay lackluster though it seems to be a playable game.

Netflix Movie - Tall Girl (2019) [/] Teen romantic comedy. Jodi (Ava Michelle) is her high school's tallest girl and maybe tallest person period. When tall Swedish foreign student Stig (Luke Eisner) enters the picture she instantly falls for him much to the chagrin of Jodi's best guy pal Jack (Griffin Gluck). Meanwhile school queen bee Kimmy (Clara Wilsey) sets her eyes on Stig setting up to romantic triangles... It's a pleasant enough movie. Kind of reminds me a bit of 16 Candles.

Movie - Silver Linings Playbook (2012) [+]

Silver Linings Playbook is a drama/romance set in Philadelphia.

After eight months in a psychiatric ward Pat Solitano Jr (Bradley Cooper) is out and living with his parents, though he's still a fairly shaky manic-depressive pining for his estranged wife who cheated on him triggering a very violent response from Pat. Pat's friend sets him up with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who's recovering from grieving for her recently deceased husband, a recover that involved sleeping with everyone she could to make the pain go away.

Since there's a restraining order Pat can't directly talk to his wife but he can get a letter to her through Tiffany (mind you they both acknowledge that still violates the restraining order). In return for that favor Tiffany wants Pat to partner with her at an upcoming dance competition. All the rehearsing helps Pat focus his mind and calms him down but his growing attraction to Tiffany threatens getting back with his wife...

This is a movie that won a bunch of awards yet the concept and trailers made it seem like a serious, downer movie. There are a few elements of that but it's not about how bad mental disorders are. It's about overcoming those mental problems and finding happiness. The first hour is ok and the second hour picks up and there is a climactic dance number which is a bit surreal (it's pretty funny that they're practicing all these disparate dance numbers and I assumed they were trying to decide what their dance number would be but it turns out they used all the disparate dance routines medley-style).

Turns out this was a pretty good movie with a good ending.

Apple Arcade - Mini Motorways (2019) [+]

Mini Motorways is a sequel to Mini Metro. In Mini Metro you are building a transit system connecting stops in a city and the end result looks a bit like a New York subway map or a Bay Area Rapid Transit map.

Mini Motorways instead focuses on cars: there are homes and work places that randomly pop up and you build roads to connect them. Everything is by color: red homes for red work places, blue homes for blue work places, etc. The algorithm is simple; when a work place person is ready to go home the nearest available car (each home has two cars) goes and gets them.

Mini Metro placement variety is based on railway lines (each a different color), number of cars (each holding 6 passengers and you can switch cars between lines), tunnels (limited quantity, used to traverse rivers), and interchanges (very limited, I forgot the effect). Passengers pop up at any station and they will get off whenever a stop matches their shape.

Mini Motorways has road tiles and the map is grid based. You can place roads orthogonally or diagonally and you can rotate a home so that the entrance points orthogonally in a cardinal direction. Special tiles:

Bridge - to cross water
Tunnel - to cross mountains
Roundabout - to smooth out traffic. Roundabouts also save a few road tiles but can't be placed anywhere.
Traffic Light - to smooth out traffic and the lights are coordinated.
Freeway - connects two points with a non-stop road and freeway can cross water

There are cities with different layouts. Challenge modes which restrict special tiles (e.g. you get one freeway at start but never get any more) or change runtime effects (e.g. work places start out as circles which have double the employees). There is a daily challenge and a weekly challenge. There is an endless mode where work places can still get full but the game doesn't end like in normal mode. There is also an expert mode which I haven't tried yet.

Mini Motorways is a step up in complexity from Mini Metro but not a really complicated game. Nice graphics and a good touch interface (though the latest update doesn't seem to have a zoom in so it gets harder to draw roads as the city gets big). Good amount of variety making this a pretty fun game that can be played for a long time without becoming boring.

Spot Reviews 11/04/22

Pasta Prima Organic Portobello Ravioli [+] Ravioli and mushroom, from frozen cooks in six minutes in boiling water. By itself pretty tasty but great with sauces and the sauce sticks to the ravioli well.

Movie - Little Nikita (1988) [/] 80's spy thriller. When teen Jeff (River Phoenix) applies for the Air Force Academy his background check throws red flags and attracts the attention of FBI agent Roy Parmenter (Sidney Poitier) who believes that Jeff's parents are sleeper agents for the Soviets... It's a watchable story and film, not especially cinematic (it looks like it could be an episode of CHIPS).

iOS Game - Checkmate or Die (2022) [-] A produced game where each level you are solving a few mate in one puzzles before the zombies catch up to you. I played like the first 20 levels and it does not seem to get any harder. It's a nice looking prototype but gameplay needs a lot of work. I guess this is more intended for kids and young teens.

Movie - The Perfect Date (2019) [+]

The Perfect Date is a teen rom-com released on Netflix. Brooks (Noah Centineo) aspired to attend Harvard but to pay for tuition he'll need to earn a bunch of money. After being paid to escort a classmate's sister, Celia (Laura Marano), on a blind date he and his friend get the idea to sell his services as a blind date companion using an app. Brooks makes money, he learns to love taking on a new role every night, and he becomes a more confident person whilst deepening his friendship with Celia. But once Brooks achieves his goals, including dating the school princess, he realizes that it's Celia he really wants...

The movie starts out a bit shallow and East Coast accents are a bit jarring. But eventually the story settles in and it's kind of nice seeing Brooks himself develop and Brooks/Celia relationship develop. It leads to an ending that works and is satisfying.