Kevin C. Wong

September 2023

Spot Reviews 09/29/23

Apple Arcade - South of the Circle (2020) [/] Kind of visual novel story of a man who's plane crashes in the Antarctic and he's trudging through the snow towards safety. Meanwhile he reminisces about his life. The UI is just tapping one of one or two mood buttons which slightly direct the dialog (and maybe it causes story branches, I didn't explore that far).

Book - Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958) [+] This is Martin Luther King Jr's account of the Montgomery bus boycott mostly from his perspective from deciding to accept a ministry in Montgomery just before Rosa Parks was arrested to suddenly being in the middle of organizing the boycott and then being the leader and how nonviolent protest eventually won. King ends with a chapter on what can be done to continue the battle for equality in the American South. It's a well written account and King's philosophies shine through and he is quite compelling even in writing. The version I read is from Beacon Press published in 2010 with an introduction by Clayborne Carson who points out that King's account minimized the role of women in the boycott organization. Not so much a criticism as highlighting that this is not a definitive history and that other books should be read to get a fuller story.

Grocery Store - Whole Foods [-] Whole Foods has always been a bit more expensive but selection seems to be going down also. I like the bakery tarts because the crust is really solid and good. Also like getting split peas and they have a good selection of bulk beans and such you can buy like it's produce. I used to buy this certain bread but they stopped stocking it (this was before Whole Foods got bought out by Amazon). Also a certain brand of tagliatelle nests but no longer stocked either. Boils down to I only go there once or twice a year for the tart and/or split peas, and buy other things too but the bill comes out fairly expensive for what I get.

Movie - Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982) [+] Rewatched The Motion Picture and it was an excellent film. Rewatched Wrath of Khan and it's even better. The introduction with the Koboyashi Maru exercise is great and Kirstie Alley didn't reprise Saavik in later movies (not that Robin Curtis was bad just that her portrayal made Saavik a bit more Vulcan whilst Alley's was a bit more emotional). Chekov (Walter Koenig) meeting Khan (Ricardo Montalbán) for the first time (or again) is chilling. The final starship battle between Kirk (William Shatner) and Khan is a classic. Death of Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is tragic and the funeral is so sad and yet the movie ends hopeful. I mean, you can end the Original series movies here and it's a great sendoff. This is a great movie.

Movie - Devotion (2022) [-] Korean War drama. Lt JG Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) is the new fighter pilot on the aircraft carrier Leyte. Among his fellow pilots is Ensign Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), an intense African-American who is kind of standoffish because of the racism of the time. Hudner works hard to befriend Brown and the two become sort of friends. Then their unit is activated for Korea and in their last mission Brown is shot down near the Chinese border and Hudner crash lands so he can get down to save Brown... It's a nice movie, mostly about the intro, training and bonding and the war part is the last 15 minutes or so. I did though overall found it a bit boring because I wanted more action.

TV Series - The Full-Time Wife Escapist (2016, 2021) [+]

The Full-Time Wife Escapist (2016) is an 11-episode Japanese romantic-comedy drama based on a manga. Mikuri Moriyama (Yui Aragaki) is a recent graduate with a psychology degree but is laid off and then can't find a job. Her dad gets her a job as a part-time housekeeper to mid-30's introvert software developer Hiramasa Tsuzaki (Gen Hoshino). Working for Tsuzaki she does her best and finds housekeeping and cooking meals quite satisfying.

But then her parents decide to move to away and Mikuri won't be able to afford her own place. In desperation she comes up with the idea to become a full-time live-in housekeeper for Hiramasa, in a strictly employer-employee relationship. Hiramasa eventually agrees and to keep up appearances they tell their parents they're getting married (though secretly it's a common-law marriage which I guess is more of a formal thing in Japan).

The rest of the series is the two slowly becoming attracted to each other, starting to date, and eventually getting married for real. Meanwhile they have to keep their work relationship secret and inner conflicts that threaten to keep them apart: both do a lot of inner monologue and it's interesting how every little incident is misinterpreted by both parties. The series turns on the two leads but they're both attractive and nice people (Yui Aragaki is incredibly cute) with foibles but not nasty foibles.

Meanwhile there's a subplot between Mikuri's aunt, successful advertising manager but forever single Yuri Tscuchiya (Yuriko Ishida), and Hiramasa's womanizing and charming coworker Ryota Kazami (Ryohei Otani). Yuri finds Kazami quite annoying but eventually his charm wins her over and in the last episode they finally decide to start dating which is a neat older woman-younger man thing. As an aside it's a small miracle how all the plots are wrapped up in the last half of the last episode without making it looked hurried.

We Married as a Job Special (2021) "We Married as a Job" is I guess the official title in Japan though Netflix calls it The Full-Time Wife Escapist. Anyways five years later we get a two-hour special. Everybody is back about two years later and the main plot is Mikuri becomes pregnant and how that affects their relationship. It's more stressful after the baby is born because three months later Japan starts going into lockdown due to COVID-19. Hiramasa has to keep working so Mikuri and baby move in with her parents which makes for a stressful time.

All the characters get a bit of screen time to update their stories and unfortunately Yuri and Kazami broke up a few months before the start of the special, though by end there may be hope now that everyone has gone through the pandemic and maybe Yuri's insecurities (she broke it up because she thought she was too old to keep up with Kazami) may have been resolved due to isolation and a health scare.

In any case, the special as good as the series and I think you can omit it and be happier with the series ending.

Book - American Airpower Strategy in Korea 1950-1953 (2000) [+]

American Airpower Strategy in Korea 1950-1953 (2000) by Conrad C Crane is a look at the Korean War through an Air Force high command perspective. The US Air Force had recently (1947) become independent from the US Army and they were transitioning to the jet age (early in the war the Air Force used mostly propeller fighters and bombers) as well as more of a nuclear force with Strategic Air Command component slowly gaining ascendancy.

Crane is focused on what was Air Force strategy and how did it change due to realities for the conflict, inter-service cooperation with the Army and Navy, and political directives and limitations from the President and Joints Chief of Staff. The writing is fairly scholarly with lots of quotes showing the opinions of various heads of the Army, FEAF (Far East Air Force), and the higher Air Force and SAC. Lots of endnotes, a selective bibliography and extensive index rounds out the book.

It doesn't really go over the war except in broad terms nor does it really go into various air campaigns. Although a bit of a scholarly tone I found it an interesting read. I like how the Air Force wanted to fight a certain way (and even then Tactical vs SAC differed in their approaches) whilst the Army and national authorities had different objectives and impressions of Air Force effectiveness.

Overall a specialized book but worthwhile to keep.

Spot Reviews 09/22/23

Apple Arcade - The Collage Atlas (2020) [/] A black and white hand drawn FPS relaxing adventure. You kind of wander around picking up poem fragments and listen to soothing background music. If you want excitement or puzzles this is not it.

Book - The World Cup: The Complete History (2006) [/] Terry Crouch. More of a data book. For each World Cup we get the qualification teams and results; then the group stage groups, narrated capsules for each game, and the raw/sports score results; then for each elimination stage we get narrated capsules for each game and the sports score results up and through the finals. Sometimes there is a bit of the background and behind the scenes drama but it's mostly terse game descriptions and though Crouch tries to live it up he kind of fails to make it interesting. First edition had the 2002 World Cup and this edition includes the run-up to the 2006 World Cup but final draft ends before World Cup group stage started (mind you this is the 2010 printing so I guess he's not going to update it with 2006 results)... I found the book interesting at first but got boring quickly. I guess it's more for people who are familiar with the World Cups and the teams and players but for a newbie like me just too much stuff left out that I'm supposed to know.

Kevin's Natural Foods - Korean BBQ-Style Beef [/] These are Sous-Vide prepared so already cooked but you're supposed to fry them for a couple of minutes on each side then cover them with the sauce and let it simmer for a bit. The beef is tender but it doesn't come out as good as restaurant. The sauce is perfectly fine and definitely better than the Lemongrass Chicken I've had.

Documentary - Love Notes to Newton (2018) [/] This is a documentary about Apple's Newton mostly told through interviews done for this documentary. Interview clips intermingle and they have Newton enthusiasts as well as some of the original team and even former Apple CEO John Scully. Fairly well done and somewhat interesting even though I was never into the Newton (I'm a Mac guy and Newton did not have good integration to any computer).

Movie - Hanna (2011) [/] 15 year-old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has been trained by her father (Eric Bana) to be a killer and their plan is get her captured and in the same room with CIA officer Marissa (Cate Blanchett) whom she intends to brutally murder. Most of the movie is about how Hanna escapes the CIA then tries to return to her father while being pursued... I watched the DVD 11 years ago and really like the movie. Rewatched it again now that female-protagonist action films are more common and I'm not as impressed with the combination of drama and action and it still feels a bit surreal at times.

TV Series - The Flash s6 to s9 (2019-2023) [/]

I previously reviewed s1 to s5 several years ago then watched s6 then stopped watching for a couple of years. Last year and this year I took the time to watch the rest of the series.

The Flash s6 had Crisis on Infinite Earths which redid continuity for all Arrowverse shows (and that was also the last big crossover event ever). Later on Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton) is stuck in a Mirror Dimension and gets out maybe early s7. Ralph "Elongated Man" Dibny (Hartley Sawyer) leaves the show at the end of s6.

The Flash s7 introduces two new regulars -- Allegra Garcia (Kayla Compton), who has radiation powers, and gadgeteer Chester P Runk (Brandon McKnight). Chester replaces Cisco "Vibe" Ramon (Carlos Valdes) who leaves the show mid-season. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Killer Frost are separated and for a while Snow leaves and Frost remains as part of the team. The last Harrison Nash (Tom Cavanagh) emerges and then goes into retirement as Nash leaves the series.

Nora "XS" West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy) comes back for a few episodes in s7 and s8 which is cool because I love her character who goes from sort of a young headstrong pre-Crisis to more responsible post-Crisis because we also get her younger brother Bart "Impulse" West-Allen (Jordan Fisher) who pushes irresponsibility.

The Flash s8 starts with Armageddon 5-parter where Despero (Tony Curran) arrives from the future to kill Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) because The Flash ends up destroying the Earth. Then in the next arc Caitlin's dead boyfriend Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) comes back from the death but he's actually Deathstorm and Frost dies stopping him.

Mark "Chillblaine" Blaine (Jon Cor), Frost's boyfriend, spends the rest of the season trying to resurrect Frost and with the help of Caitlin and an experiment gone wrong we get in s9 Khlone, sort of the third Snow sister, with life force powers.

In The Flash s9 Blaine becomes a regular. Joe West (Jesse L Martin) goes from regular to recurring. s9 is a half season with two arcs. In the first Barry recruits some super villains to fight the Red Death (who turns out to be an evil version of Batwoman (Ryan Wilder)). Arc 2 is the Negative Forces (and the Speed Force (Michelle Harrison) is one of the Positive Forces) wanting to stamp out the Positive Forces. Barry and other speedsters have to stop him (XS and Impulse return).

The series ends with Barry and Iris together and happy with a newborn baby Nora. Khlone ascends which allows Caitlin to reclaim her body. Joe West and Cecile "Virtue" Horton (Danielle Nicolet) finally get engaged. Barry released some of his speed energy into the world and creates three new speedsters.


Looking back there are a lot of high points though a lot of episodes are kind of ho hum. It's episodic but because arc base (6 to 8 episode arcs) and for the surprises and excitement you need buildup. The last two or three season had several Flash-light episodes where he makes a token appearance and then it's the rest of the team doing the heavy lifting. The show sort of became less about The Flash and Iris as the supporting characters got more and more story time.

In the end a fairly good super-hero series that borrowed a lot from the comic books whilst making it its own thing.

Books - Dragons at War (1986) [+] / The Battle for Hunger Hill (1997) [+]

Lt General (ret) Daniel P Bolger wrote these two books about his units' experiences during two training tours in the USA.

Dragons at War: 2-34th Infantry in the Mojave (1986)

This book covers a battalions rotation (rotation 1-83, so first one in 1983) at the then new National Training Center in California. The first three chapters introduce the NTC (and how simulated battles are done using MILES, kind of like Laser Tag), OPFOR (a regular US Army unit assigned to Fort Irwin to be a Soviet mechanized battalion and serve for a year or two so they get really good about knowing the terrain and the tricks of NTC combat), and the Dragons (2nd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division).

After that each chapter recounts one mission the unit did. Over the course of two weeks the unit had 11 missions, often one per day or night and only one or two breaks. The first half was against the OPFOR using MILES and the second half was on the live fire range where they got to use live weapons against remote-controlled stand up targets.

The unit gets their orders from brigade (which is their regular brigade command group who are also at NTC commanding a "brigade" though only the 2-34th is live and the of the brigade is partial and their actions are resolved by referees), then they have to plan, get ready, and do their mission within a few hours and often in the middle of the night. The book shows how little things (well, relatively little things) and misunderstandings can sabotage a mission though sometimes that applies to the OPFOR too.

Writing style is good and always from a third-person perspective. I think Captain Bolger was Company B commander which probably did the best and sometimes has a bit more of B's thinking in the text. Each chapter has footnotes and there is a bibliography.

The Battle for Hunger Hill: The 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment a the Joint Readiness Training Center (1997)

In this book Colonel Bolger is now commander of a light infantry battalion as they deploy in the 95-07 rotation at the JRTC which is the jungle warfare training center in Louisiana. NTC is more about fighting in the desert against a Soviet-style force (which turns out a lot like the Middle East though not sure that was the main intention) and JRTC is more about fighting an insurgency backed by regular forces in the jungles (so kind of like Vietnam).

Once again we have introductory chapters then each chapter is one mission written from the third-person perspective. You get a lot more insight into what the 1-327th's commander was thinking and how his intentions filtered down and changed in the subordinate units.

A bit better writing style and lot better graphics: Dragons at War has these maps which could have been screen shots from an Apple II whilst this book has maps generated by 1990's PCs.

Both books give a good account of what a unit goes through when doing a rotation at the Army training centers and shows the value of practicing as live as possible before a real war. I found both books interesting and worthy of keeping in my library.

Spot Reviews 09/15/23

Netflix Series - Make My Day (2023) [+] Eight episode half hour Japanese animation science fiction series. The world of Coldfoot is blizzardly cold and a major exporter of Sig which is an extremely compact power source mined by convicts. Jim (Masaomi Yamahashi) is a part-time prison guard caught up in it all when a previously unknown species wakes up and starts killing everyone at the main mine site. As the creatures head to the city Jim and the survivors race back to save what they can... Other than Jim being really annoying the first half of the series (it's part of his character arc) it's a pretty good suspense/thriller story with about half a dozen distinct characters who at times almost self-destruct the group.

Apple Arcade - Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows (2020) [/] RPG/Strategy game where you are the general with a force sent to reinforce the entrance to a great wall. But the garrison has disappeared so you need to do their job (e.g. patrolling the other side of the wall) whilst investigating their disappearance. Game play is sending out parties on missions and you have three leaders (with different characteristics and I think there are missions than you can do comfortably so you have to prioritize) to lead each mission. Missions take time and this game is a bit real-time so you have to wait for a mission to complete (and missions often have waypoints where the mission leader messages back asking for what to do next). On my iPad the UI is a bit cramped but I like the concept so will try this game on my Mac.

Apple Arcade - Slash Quest! (2020) [/] Cutesy mostly top-down view RPG action adventure. The main difference is you're holding a magic sword straight out in front of you, movement is turn left/right or walk forward/back so you have to maneuver like a 2D airplane and stick your opponents (and also destroy a lot of the terrain).

Novel - Earth (1990) [/] David Brin novel set on Earth of about 2040. In the midst of a climate crisis (rising waters have already buried many coastal cities, deforestation and a failing ozone layer is causing mass animal extinctions, food supplies can barely sustain 20B people) disgraced physicist Alex Lustig finds a small black hole growing inside the Earth, threatening to grow and consume the planet within a year. He and his allies will try to expel the micro black hole before the big governments get wind of it because whomever controls that power controls the world... It starts interesting then gets a bit boring (I struggled to get myself to continue reading) leading to a minor deux ex machina ending.

Mexican Restaurant - Fletch's Taqueria, San Mateo [+] Burrito (carnitas, rice, beans, pico de gallo salsa) + regular french fries (crinkle cut) + complimentary chips and pico de gallo salsa for $22. I ate there. Burrito was really good, fries were perfectly deep fried, salsa was good but chips were very stale.

Disney Series - The Mandalorian s3 (2023) [+]

The Mandalorian s3 is eight episodes each half an hour to an hour in length. Season one was really good: first Star Wars drama series on Disney+, really good production, very old western movie feel, and a really cute meme "kid" in Grogu. Season two was still good but maybe a bit same-y though I think adding a cool villain and "mainstream" Mandalorians (because apparently The Mandalorian is part of a small, traditionalist sect). Also Grogu's arc kind of fizzled out in S3 as he found a Jedi teacher (forgot if this was at the end of S1 or beginning of S2) but decided to end his training and return to his "dad".

I like season three because it has a cool central arc: reuniting the Mandalorian sects and reclaiming Mandalore (which turns out is not a devastated wasteland that everyone thought because... secrets!). We still mostly center on The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) though his character changes little throughout the series. Which then makes Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) the central interesting character when she's around (the last half of the season) as she first joins the sect then proves herself and finally becomes leader of the unified Mandalorians.

Arc finished, we kind of reset and end with The Mandalorian and Grogu independent again ready for new adventures.

Apple Arcade - Creaks (2020) [+]

Creaks is a side-view puzzle game from Amanita Design who did the Samorost games among others and Creaks has that Amanita Design hand-drawn intricate graphics look. In this game you are a young man who finds a secret tunnel in his house and follows it across then down down down to a giant cavern wherein there is a tall intricate gothic looking building.

Each level is about a screen size, usually smaller, so there's not much scrolling. The basic gameplay is to get from beginning to end walking along horizontal paths, using ladders (sometimes jumping down small distances -- it won't let you fall to your death), flipping switches and avoiding creatures.

The big thing is avoiding creatures of which the first type is the mechanical dog. They move horizontally only and chase you if you get close. Lights are an important mechanic and if you turn on a light on a dog it turns into a dresser which you can move (though don't move it out of the light!) and climb on to reach a high ladder. Other creatures have different movement behaviors though they all turn into furniture when you light them (I think only the dogs turn into useful furniture, everything else is furniture you can move but otherwise can't climb on).

Meanwhile there is a bit of a story about three or four inhabitants fighting off this huge mechanical monster that is outside the mansion. You often see them a level below or above or through a crack in a bit of a cut scene. Eventually they see you and eventually you join forces to defeat the big monster.

This is a 20-hour game. There are many puzzles and some took a while to figure out but I never had to use a walkthrough. Graphics are impressive, game play is easy with touch or controller, and it has good background music that changes a bit. This was quite a fun game.

Spot Reviews 09/08/23

TV Series - Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003) [/] This is a short animated series set during the Clone Wars with the Jedi and their clone army vs the Trade Federation and it's robot army. Mat Lucas voices Anakin and James Arnold Taylor voices Obi-Wan, though the action moves around to different areas. Episodes were 2 to 3 minutes long then 12 to 15 minutes long so the whole three seasons are about three hours. It's entertaining though extremely action-heavy with little story or character arcs.

Film - The Three Musketeers (1993) [/] Disney live-action action version. D'Artagnan (Chris O'Donnell) goes to Paris to become a King's Musketeer like his father before him only to find they've just been disbanded on Cardinal Richeliu's (Tim Curry) order. He then falls in with three of the musketeers -- Athos (Kiefer Sutherland), Porthos (Oliver Platt) and Aramis (Charlie Sheen) -- and joins them to stop a plot against the King... I saw it when it first came out and the film hasn't really aged well though still has the star power (Platt was a bit more of an unknown at the time).

Apple Arcade - The Last Campfire (2020) [/] Puzzle game where you play a cute little guy, Ember, lost from the rest of its people trying to find home. It's a 3rd person 3D view with good graphics and has voice acting.

Apple Arcade - Marble Knights (2020) [/] Arcade action game where you play medieval fantasy characters where the characters are torsos mounted on marbles (so you're kind of constantly rolling along and there are ramps and jump pads and you can fall off the map). Kind of a Zelda-type game and fairly well implemented by WayForward (who also did the Shantae series). (Apparently removed Aug 15th and will stop working soon.)

Restaurant - Sapore Express, San Mateo, CA [/] Apparently this is a spin-off small restaurant of Burlingame's Sapore Italiano. Came here for dinner with C3. Had Rigatoni Carbonara ($20). Was very good. Didn't look like that much food but was actually quite filling.

Netflix Movie - Heart of Stone (2023) [+]

In Heart of Stone Gal Gadot plays junior MI6 field agent Rachel Stone who has to save her team when the plan goes wrong and it turns out she's a lot more capable than they think because she's actually working for The Charter, an organization of rogue intelligence agents that try to keep the world stable by using The Heart, a quantum AI computer, though Stone is not particularly keen on blindly obeying The Heart's directives because they're too logical and doesn't take human intuition into account.

Anyways turns out there is some enemy after The Heart, one that is somehow keeping one step ahead of The Charter, and they're willing to kill Stone's MI6 team, whom she has gotten a bit attached to...

This must have had a good budget because a good number of outdoor locations, big fights, big car chases and really good CGI. Gadot is fairly charming and capable doing action. The supporting characters are pretty good and the story is James Bond-level gonzo that works (unlike a similar Netflix film she did, Red Notice, which I guess was trying to be more comedic than Heart of Stone).

This is a well done spy thriller movie more on the action side than thriller side and quite entertaining.

Podcast - The Kings Herald Show (2020) [+]

The Sactown Royalty podcast rebranded as the Kings Herald podcast (to go a long with the web site rebranding) in early 2020 and in late 2020 they brought Jerry Reynolds as the regularly featured guest. I guess Reynolds had just retired after spending many years in the Sacramento Kings' organization (maybe even before the move to Sacramento in the early 1980's) so he brings a wealth of Kings' anecdotes as well as his more old school basketball perspective.

This is a bi-weekly show and about an hour long. I like the pace -- I don't need a podcast that covers every game. There are two hosts who do stuff on the Kings Herald web site and they bring an enthusiast's perspective. Occasional they have guests some of them reporters.

I started listening a few months ago and then caught up since Reynolds joined the show so it went from getting kind of negative to where Luke Walton was fired to now positive after a surprising first full season under Mike Brown. The show was entertaining when the Kings were losing and even more entertaining when they're winning (but the former is more important because the Kings lose a lot -- hopefully that will change with Mike Brown).

Spot Reviews 09/01/23

Apple Arcade - Samurai Jack (2020) [/] Based on the Adult Swim cartoon. You are a samurai time traveling to different places fighting bad guys. It's a dual-joystick over-the-shoulder POV: one stick controls the camera and the other controls movement with buttons for jump, dash, fast attack, power attack. Collect money and upgrade your abilities. Much like Beyond a Steel Sky this game is a bit disorienting and not for me.

Movie - Becky (2020) [/] Violent thriller. Rebellious teen Becky (Lulu Wilson) and is visiting the family cabin with her father and soon to be step-mother and little step-brother. A group of four escaped inmates led by Dominick (Kevin James) arrives because Dominick hid a key in the cabin which Becky found once. To get Becky to give him the key Dominick kills her father, which only makes her mad for revenge... Small budget girl-becomes-murder-bot film which has some hilariously extra-gory death scenes.

Movie - Hoosiers (1986) [+] I watched Hoosiers 7 years ago and thought it was mid. On re-watching it now I think it's a pretty good movie. Gene Hackman is great as a disgraced former college basketball coach now coaching a small high school team but still has his do-it-my-way abrasive style. The basketball sequences are not too bad and fairly exciting drama. Good ending.

Food - Dreyer's Slow Churned Butter Pecan Light Ice Cream [-] Maybe because I got it on sale but this flavor is not great. Rather sugary though lots of ice creams are like that. Pecans are mushy which maybe that's how they turn out in ice cream. Overall I regret this purchase and should have stuck with Tillamook.