Kevin C. Wong

September 2022

Spot Reviews 09/30/22

Book - The Fighting 69th: One Remarkable National Guard Unit's Journey from Ground Zero to Baghdad (2007) [/] Author Sean Michael Flynn was a captain in the 69th when it deployed to Iraq. This book tells the story of regimental commander Geoff Slack and some of the other people in the 69th from about 1991 when it was more of a weekend club to 9/11 when it was still maybe 1/3rd competent and onwards... I read the first four chapters, 80+ pages. It concentrates more on the people than the unit, which is fine but not exactly interesting to me. Did not get to their deployment in Iraq but I don't feel I'd learn anything useful if I read the rest of the book.

Movie - Luck (2022) [/] Skydance and Apple production, Luck is a family film about Sam Greenfield (Eva Noblezada), a young woman who is incredibly unlucky (in small ways, like if a car hits a puddle she's the only one who gets hit). Her luck turns when she finds a lucky coin but then loses it, much to the chagrin of Bob (Simon Pegg), a talking cat from the Land of Luck and whose coin Sam found. Sam follows Bob to the Land of Luck and makes a pact with Bob to borrow and use a lucky coin to help Sam's friend and in return she leaves the Land of Luck before the authorities discover Bob let in a mundane... It's a movie that should work and yet the Land of Luck is too fantastical and the string of things Sam and Bob have to do gets a bit too long. The concept is fine but the plot just adequate.

Wellshire Traditional Breakfast Sausage [/] Breakfast so that means these are small sausages. Six in a pack and pre-cooked so I could microwave from frozen and serve them with toast and eggs. Tastes fine.

Movie - Chef (2014) [+]

Chef is a small budget film a former star chef, Carl Casper (Jon Favreau), who has become complacent at the west coast restaurant where he's head chef, gets a bad review, gets angry and gets himself fired. Carl has a supportive ex-wife, Inez (Sofía Vergara), and a son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), who loves him but Carl kind of neglects because he's too busy.

In his doldrums Inez convinces him to start a food truck and create dishes without the constraints of a restaurant owner over him. He buys a dilapidated truck and with his sous chef Martin (John Leguizamo) and Percy they fix the truck and travel from Miami back to California serving Cubano sandwiches and other dishes based on whatever ingredients he can buy each day on the road. And along the way he and Percy become closer and bond like father and son...

It's a nice feel good film with some great looking food preparation scenes. Favreau wrote and produced and got a lot of stars for small roles, like Scarlett Johansson as a restaurant hostess, Dustin Hoffman as the restaurant owner, Oliver Platt as the food critic, and Robert Downey Jr as Inez's other ex-husband (after Carl).

Timbuk2 Laptop Backpack [/]

C2 bought me a Timbuk2 laptop backpack a few years ago and I try to use it as my regular backpack.

  • Padded back section for a 15" laptop.
  • Main section has one divider for a thin item like an iPad or magazine.
  • Forward section has a zippered container, two pockets, two pencil holders.
  • Front zippered pocket.
  • One outside side pocket for like a cell phone.

Seems pretty durable so far. Wearing the backpack is comfortable enough. Main section can hold like two or three full-sized RPG books so it's a bit small for a GM. Perhaps when I can afford four big iPads so I can have four books "open" at once. So personally for me I'd want a backpack with a bigger main section.

Spot Reviews 09/23/22

Movie - Level 16 (2018) [/] Drama set in a modern day girls' indoor academy where the women are brought up from an early age to adulthood, learning to be obedient and docile and not learning to read. On level 16 (sixteen years old) two of the girls, Vivien (Katie Douglas) and Sophia (Celina Martin) discover the real purpose of the academy (which if you've seen similar movies you can guess in the first 10 minutes) and, though Sophia betrayed Vivien at level 10, have to work together to escape... It is a bit of a downer movie and I didn't watch the last third.

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Uncured Pepperoni Pizza [/] It's a small (2 people) pepperoni pizza with usual veggie toppings: bell peppers, red onion, black olives. But it's on a cauliflower crust. If I didn't know this was a gluten free crust I'd have said it tastes like a normal pizza, maybe a little less tasty than Tombstone (which is a cheap frozen pizza that I like).

Podcast - Wobblies & Wizards (2021) [/] A daily 15-30 min podcast each episode covering one topic, often with a guest. Covers all RPGs. Daily is a bit too much for me and I guess because it's that frequent and the episodes are short they are not in-depth discussions so the podcast is more like short news articles.

Movie - The Half of It (2020) [+]

The Half Of It is a Netflix teen romance Cyrano de Bergerac-style. Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) may be the smartest teen in her small-town high school but she's resigned to being stuck there to help her father coping with life after mom died.

To make ends meet she writes essays for pay but one day jock Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) hires Ellie to ghost write love letters to his crush Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), who turns out is Ellie's secret crush. Through Paul's letters, emails, and text messages Ellie and Aster form a bond which makes it all the harder for Ellie that Aster thinks it's Paul, who himself is a fairly nice guy.

Eventually all three will have to resolve this situation and along the way Ellie realizes that she needs to grow and leave town for a big university and her father will be all right without her...

I watched a YouTube video listing the ten best LGBTQ romance speeches and this was one of the films listed and the speech is quite good. The story is interesting and charming and nobody is a bad guy. Feel good film.

Brenthaven Professional 17 Backpack Case [+]

Back in 2004 I bought a Professional 17 Backpack Case by Brenthaven (T6091G/A). I used it pretty heavily for over a decade.

  • Padded computer pocket
  • Big central area can hold a good amount of RPG books
  • Pencil/utility area has several small pockets
  • Three other separate pocket areas
  • Adjustable straps, fairly comfortable to wear backpack

After a decade there is a big horizontal rip on the front flap (the fibers are horizontal so the rip slowly gets bigger). Still holds stuff well but rain will definitely leak in.

It was $170 back in the day and gave me great service so would recommend. Going to Brenthaven I only see this Tred Expandable Backpack for $130 and it fits 15" portables.

Spot Reviews 09/16/22

Movie - Trouble with the Curve (2012) [/] High powered lawyer Mickey (Amy Adams) has to help her baseball scout father Gus (Clint Eastwood) who's failing eyesight threatens his job. They're not on the best terms but time together helps Mickey regain her love of baseball and kindle a romance with rival scout Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake)... Rewatched this after a decade and it's still a pleasant film and a nice behind the scenes baseball movie.

Tillamook Waffle Cone Swirl Ice Cream [/] Chocolate one one side, vanilla with caramel swirls on the other side. I'm not a fan of chocolate ice cream but the vanilla side is pretty good. Not one of their better flavors though.

Book - The Spanish War: An American Epic 1898 (1984) [-] I only got through the first 60-odd pages of GJA O'Toole's book about the Spanish-American War. The short chapter one started off well, sort of disaster movie style introducing characters and what they were doing in a sleepy morning in Havana when suddenly USS Maine exploded. Then the second chapter goes back a couple of decades covering Cuban history and the recent rebellions. I didn't particularly like the writing style. Too much introducing characters and too much peripheral stuff and politics. Feels like the rest of the book will be more about the people than the war and that's not really interesting to me.

Movie - In the Line of Fire (1993) [+]

In the Line of Fire is a thriller with Clint Eastwood playing Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan, a veteran agent who was part of the security detail when Kennedy was assassinated but is now relegated to lower level work with Treasury stuff and investigating wacko threats to the President.

But turns out there is a credible threat to the President. "Booth" (John Malkovich) who also takes a special interest in Frank because Frank failed to protect Kennedy. Frank is assigned to the advanced protection detail where he romances Agent Lilly Raines (Rene Russo), head of the detail, and possibly get his junior partner Agent Al D'Andrea (Dylan McDermott) killed because that's what happens to the newish partner.

Naturally Frank makes a couple of bad calls which almost gets him kicked off the detail. Now that his fellow agents doubt him can Frank stop Booth from assassinating the President?

It's still a fairly entertaining movie with good suspense. Eastwood has that "old but I can do action when I have to" attitude. Russo makes a good leading lady. Malkovich is appropriately scary. The climactic face-off is nicely done. Overall I'm glad I rewatched this film.

Book - Chess Queens (2022) [+]

Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade's book Chess Queens is the second edition of a book surveying the historical and current women chess players around the world whilst intermingling her personal story of how she got into chess and her climb to the WGM title and US Women's Championship, which she won twice.

The previous edition was titled Chess Bitch, Play Like a Girl which I haven't so I'm not sure if the tone changed but I think the theme is still present. Chess is a male-dominated sport which makes it harder for women who want to play. They have few role models, there are a lot of gender stereotypes propagated by the male players, there is a lot of sexism and sexual harassment. To be good women have to be more ruthless than their stereotype and yet playing as aggressive as a man gets you called a b*tch or other slurs.

Anyway, I like the historical biographies. Shahade goes country by country going over the top players and their stories. Fifteen years later she gets to add current top and upcoming women players as well mentioning current popular personalities like Anna Cramling and Alexandra Botez. Shahade mentions that in the first edition she was a bit more aggressive about feminism and chess and a decade later is more moderate, still a feminist and still working to bring more women into chess but without as big a chip on her shoulder.

I like the book. I knew few of the players and the stories are interesting. I like Shahade's personal story which she ties to the journeys of other players. Overall an enjoyable book.

Spot Reviews 09/09/22

Movie - Maria (2019) [/] Filipino action film. Former mob assassin Maria (Cristine Reyes) has been hiding out with her new family. When her former boss recognizes her he sends his men to kill her family and bring Maria to him. They do the first but fail on the second leaving a highly-skilled assassin on a path of vengeance... It's an ok action film with some good fights -- I like Maria mixing it up with other female mob lieutenants. Leaves an opening for a sequel.

Kenneth Cole Face Masks [/] I bought a 3-pack back when it was the only offering but now they have several SKUs. Maybe a little pricey but well made, washable, and fits pretty well.

Trader Joe's Chunky Salsa [-] It's salsa, it's cheap, it's not that great. Does have a bit of garlic flavor I didn't expect and I like. It's half puree and half diced tomatoes so it doesn't really have a good feel. I had another TJ salsa last week which was like diced tomatoes fresh salsa and it was really good. Hence why the Chunky Salsa sucks in comparison.

Movie - 21 Bridges (2019) [+]

21 Bridges is a police drama set in New York. A late night gunfight leaves eight NYPD officers dead. In the immediate aftermath detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is put in charge of apprehending the fugitives and he closes down all 21 bridges into Manhattan. Andre is assigned detective Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) to help him and liaison with 85th precinct who polices this area and whose officers were murdered.

Meanwhile friends Michael (Stephan James) and Ray (Taylor Kitsch) are on the run with a whole lot of cocaine because the small-time dealer they robbed was actually a major middle-man working with the police. With the whole of 85th precinct searching for them they know that if they're caught they're dead lending a kill or be killed mentality whilst Andre is sort of in the middle of this as the lone outside officer...

The movie takes place over a few hours from around midnight to early morning. Action ranges throughout Manhattan showing off the night life of the city that never sleeps. There are sharp and vicious gunfights and a pretty good ending. It's a pretty well implemented $33M movie.

Journeys, The Journal of Multidimensional Roleplaying (1993) [/]

Journeys was a GDW RPG magazine started as a sort of companion to Dangerous Journeys RPG. DD was supposed to be a multi-genre RPG (Mythus is the fantasy RPG of DD, and I guess the system was meant to have separate independent RPGs sharing the same rules) so Journeys also covers other multi-genre RPGs such as GURPS, HERO and Torg, though about half the material is for DD.

GDW was quite well established by then so the magazine has good production value with full-color glossy cover and 48 glossy pages with lots of illustrations. It ran for six issues before GDW had to shutdown Dangerous Journeys due to a TSR lawsuit claiming that DD was a copy of D&D since Gary Gygax was primary designer of DD and the main world was a fantasy realm.

Article Counts

Mythus adventures x6
Mythus articles x14

GURPS adventures x4 (cyberpunk, space, modern/fantasy, horror)
Torg articles x2 (spells across realms, fighting high-tech enemies)
HERO adventures x2 (fantasy, supers)
HERO articles x1 (NPC Warriors)
Other adventures x2 (Stormbringer, Time Lord)

Other articles x11
RPG Reviews x10
Movie reviews x2


I like having a good amount of adventures (Mythus adventures can be sort of converted to fantasy games) and although none of the adventures are long they can all be an evening's entertainment (unless you run abbreviated combats).

One thing I had read about but didn't experience until now is that Mythus is a hard read. Lots of its own terms even for common concepts (for example HPs are Heroic Personas aka Player Characters in other RPGs). Reading some of the rules articles the way they describe doing calculations is in a way that's hard to understand -- would actually be better to use equations. So Mythus is not one of those games I'll ever want to own (not that it's likely I think it's tied up in IP limbo).

Overall Journeys is a magazine most valuable to Mythus GMs. Secondarily useful to GURPS GMs with four GURPS adventures and other adventures that can be adapted to GURPS (we're used to adapting other adventures to GURPS because there are so few GURPS adventures).

Spot Reviews 09/02/22

Disney Movie - Double Teamed (2002) [/] Wholesome family movie about Heather (Poppi Monroe) and Heidi (Annie McElwain) Burge, twin sister volleyball aces whose parents move so they can be in a good high school and get noticed by college scouts. They have to contend with a new school and a new sport when they get recruited for the girls basketball team. It's a nice film.

Book - The Complete Hammer's Slammers Volume One (2006) [/] This is one of a three volume set and has a bunch of short stories about Hammer's Slammers, a far future mercenary tank regiment hired out when one side wants to win a war since the other side will not have tanks. Author David Drake served in Vietnam and imbues the stories with his experiences there. I had heard about these stories in so much as there is an RPG for this universe. The stories are interesting but not really my thing I think.

Food - Cedar Lane Sweet Corn Tamales [/] You get two tamales, each 320 calories. Microwave for 3 minutes. They feel and taste like tamales. Fairly tasty even though vegetarian.