Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bon Festival

Last night there was a Bon Festival in Haleiwa. The Bon festival is a Japanese Buddhist tradition to honor the dead. There were basically two parts to the festival last night: the Bon dance, which has drumming and singing and lots of people dancing simple repeated steps around in a circle, and the setting of paper lanterns, which people dedicate to a deceased loved one, to float out to sea.

Bon dance

Sorry, I'm not so good at taking pictures of moving people in low light and big crowds.

People bring the lanterns down to the water

The lanterns float out to sea

It's quite pretty and soothing listening to the waves and watching hundreds of lights drift out towards the horizon.

That's all for now.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Finally--the beach!

Things have been totally crazy for the past week. I've been busy doing family lunches/dinners/outings with various grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. And I've been looking for a house to rent, again and again finding ads that sound so promising only to be disappointed by the actual house. But today, after a week and a half of being here in Hawaii, I finally made it to the beach! And I have new pictures!

These were all taken out at Haleiwa on the North Shore (of O'ahu). I have Haleiwa photos from previous visits that are already up on this blog, but hopefully these are different enough to be interesting.

The beach has several patches of this very rough, dark volcanic rock, which the waves carve into cool shapes.

Interesting tree

Green sea turtle by the shore

No, you may not ride on the sea turtles

But this is allowed!

What I really need is a waterproof camera so I can take photos of fish and turtles underwater when I snorkel (and eventually scuba, once I learn how). I think I might try a "Guide to Hawaii" series on my blog in one of the coming weeks. Once I find the time to get around to writing it.

More pictures as they come!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Emmy nominees 2009

Hawaii vacation and I'm sitting inside with my computer at my grandparents' apartment. I guess it's not really a vacation, since I'm moving here, though it won't feel like I'm actually living here until I get a house. Working on that. Still, I haven't been to the beach or even gone walking around anywhere particularly picturesque. I will have photos at some point. I promise.

Anyway, the 2009 Emmy nominees were announced yesterday. I'd just like to give a quick shout-out to the nominees from "my shows"...

Lost was nominated for Best Drama Series, with Michael Emerson receiving a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Lost had a great penultimate season, and I have high hopes for an even more mind-blowing final season. Emerson's Ben continues to be one of the most compelling villains (?) on TV.

How I Met Your Mother was nominated for Best Comedy Series, and Neil Patrick Harris got a nod for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. This is certainly my favorite comedy series at the moment, though with Emmy favorites such as 30 Rock also nominated, I don't think its chances for a win are that high. And NPH is awesome. His Barney is hilarious, and he finally got to show some heart and vulnerability this season.

Kristin Chenoweth was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in Pushing Daisies. I miss Pushing Daisies so much! But of all the cast, I do think she stood out the most. A quirky character in an already quirky show. And whenever she burst in to song, I'd fall in love with the show all over again.

Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons got a nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. The nerdiest, dorkiest, geekiest character in a nerdy, dorky, geeky show. Some people think the show's a bit too much, but I love it. And his character is definitely the standout.

Last but not least, The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart were both nominated for Best Variety, Music, or Comedy Series. I love them both. Don't make me choose just one!

I know it was a short season, but I'm still disappointed that the Emmy voters have again neglected to include Battlestar Galactica in their nominations. Not surprised. Just disappointed.

The Emmy Awards will be presented on September 20. Neil Patrick Harris is hosting.

Going to Germany in September

Now that I'm in Hawaii, I have a little news unrelated to Hawaii to share. In September, I will be attending a conference in Berlin, Germany (it was a bit up in the air for a while there, but now it seems pretty sure I'll be going). It will be my first conference, and I will even be presenting a paper! This is very exciting, but it's just one more thing for me to be stressed about, seeing as this paper is not yet written, and the research isn't even exactly complete, and I have already left the job where I was working on the project. Essentially, I will be presenting something that I will have to finish during whatever free time I find in the next two months while juggling orientation and the beginning of classes and my research assistantship and settling down in a new place. Fun. Also fun will be the 12-hour jet lag from Honolulu to Berlin...

But I am very excited about the trip! I have only been to Europe three times, and never to Germany. I don't speak a word of German--OK, maybe a few words: "Guten Tag", "Nein", and "Ja", as well as "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen" and some other not-so-useful phrases from choral pieces (though I guess that one might be useful if someone were inviting me into their house?). Language shouldn't be an issue within the conference, but elsewhere my lack of German will be inconvenient. I'll be pretty busy with the conference, but hopefully I'll find some time to see the city. Maybe a trip to the zoo!

I will surely have more updates on this trip to Germany as it draws closer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Welcome to Hawaii

So it might have been obvious that yesterday's post was written in advance of my flight out to Hawaii. At the moment, internet access is not much of a problem, so I can share how my flight to and arrival in Honolulu actually went.

Packing to move overseas is not an easy task. Being a great procrastinator, I was packing until 2:20 am yesterday. I had to wake up at 3:45 am in order to leave the house at 4:15 am in order to catch my flight at 6 am. The upside of getting so little sleep was that, having brushed my teeth just before bed, I didn't feel obligated to brush my teeth again when I woke up. My mother and younger brother were also flying out at the same time. They, however, had gotten very nice flights months in advance. I bought my ticket really late because it took me forever to decide which date I wanted to come out here; I would have liked to come earlier in July, but I kept having projects to work on back at my old lab. So of the nine times that I have flown out to Hawaii, this was the first time that I had two layovers. Ugh.

My three flights were, in order, roughly 3 hours, 2 hours, and 6 hours long. This was difficult because it was during the first flights that I would have liked to get some solid sleep, but it was difficult to do so because they were short. Plus I was a bit dehydrated (planes are so dry), so I had to compromise between the need to sleep and the need to wake up to take water when they came down the aisle.

My first layover was uneventful, and I spent most of it trying to sleep across rows of chairs with annoying armrests while news reports of Sotomayor's hearing droned on in the background. My second flight landed in Phoenix. I have been to the Phoenix airport at least twice before, but I have never landed in the part of the airport that I landed in yesterday. I think this terminal must be in a different dimension than the rest of the airport. My final flight to Honolulu was on a different airline than my first two flights, so the gate listing for my Honolulu flight wasn't even on the list that was up in this terminal. I had no idea where I was going, and I couldn't even figure out how to get out of the terminal. I wandered up and down the length of the terminal twice before running into another girl who was just as confused as I was. As it happened, she was looking for the same flight to Honolulu that I was, so we decided to stick together. Apparently having two confused girls standing in the hallway attracted enough attention that a guy who worked at the airport asked us if he could help us, so we asked for directions--this other girl's ticket at least listed a gate number, so she could give some clue of where she was trying to go.

Here's what we had to do to get to this gate: Follow the signs out toward baggage claim and ground transportation (heading out of security to baggage claim and ground transportation seemed to me like we were leaving the airport altogether, so I would not have guessed that's what we were supposed to do). Head down the escalator, go all the way to the end of the baggage claim area, head out the doors, cross the street halfway, and wait 10 minutes for the special shuttle to come and take us to the terminal we're looking for (which, by the way, is not discernible by the gate number but must be divined through the airline). Get on the elevator, go up to level three, and voila! We've made it to the right terminal. Of course, our flight wasn't actually listed on their departures list for some reason, so we had to go through security and just hope that our flight really did exist and we'd be able to find it once we got to the gate. In short, the airport is big and confusing and really not well sign posted. At least a sign in the first terminal saying "To other terminals ->" or whatever would have helped.

So now it was lunchtime, and still having considerable time left in our layover, this girl and I set out to find some food. When I noticed her addressing me as "person", I decided it was time to tell her my name and learn hers: Amber. Amber was a bit chatty. She was also only 15 years old. I had pegged her as 18 at first, though as I talked to her she did seem younger. She had guessed I was 16 or 17; it was her utter surprise when I told her I was going to grad school that spurred us to reveal our ages. Anyway, Amber told me all about how she was visiting her sister and brother-in-law and baby niece, and she showed me pictures of them on her camera. She also showed me a baby picture of herself on her camera, which I thought was odd (she's not THAT young), but she said she'd taken a picture of a baby picture of herself, so that made sense. She then showed me pictures of her perfect boyfriend, with whom she will be celebrating their seven-month anniversary together tomorrow. She told me how much she misses him, and how much he misses her. She had already been away for two weeks visiting other relatives in Tennessee, and now she was going to be away for a month in Hawaii! She just wanted to go home and tackle him and cover him with kisses. They're really close; he calls her mother "Mom", and his mother calls her pet names like "Sweet pea". Her mom is really supportive of their relationship. They're practically engaged, she said, except that she wouldn't get married until she's 18. Not that she hasn't started planning the wedding. Her favorite color is purple, so her bridesmaids will be wearing stylish lavender dresses. She will be wearing a stylish white dress, of course, with a little bit of slink, a little bit of swirl, a little bit of lace, but not too much of anything. And it might have a dash of purple on it to go with the theme. She had the flowers picked out--fresia and lavender and some other things I can't remember. Delightful girl. Needless to say, I did not get a nap in Phoenix.

Amber and I were not seated near each other on the flight to Honolulu (phew!). Instead, I was coincidentally sitting next to two girls about my age, one who was about to start grad school at UH-Hilo and another who was visiting friends at UH-Hilo. This was an old-fashioned plane with a row of poorly color balanced TVs lining the aisle, and we had only one movie rather than a choice of many movies and TV shows which I had become accustomed to on my recent flights. So against my better judgment, I watched the movie 17 Again. I do not recommend it, though there is a character I had to like because he's a consummate dork, geek, and nerd who spends his millions on various fantasy/sci-fi memorabilia, which make amusing props in various scenes. Also (spoiler alert!), in the end he wins over the girl when they realize that they both speak Elvish.

When I finally landed in Honolulu, my excitement was completely tempered by feeling really crappy. I had developed a headache towards the end of my flight, and landing seemed to make it worse--it sort of morphed into an overall crappy feeling, rather than just in my head. And I was terribly jetlagged, and working on barely any sleep. I met my mom and brother at my grandparents' apartment, where my mom gave me some aspirin and some juice to hydrate myself. I promptly threw up in my grandparents' toilet. Just a little bit--I'd estimate it was just about a tablespoon of the juice I'd just drunk, though a little of it did come out my nose which was unpleasant (sorry--consider this a TMI Thursday post!). As I was throwing up the lilikoi juice, I was just hoping it wouldn't turn me off of lilikoi juice in the future. Oy. Welcome to Hawaii.

Dinner seemed entirely unappealing to me, so when we got to my mom's aunt and uncle's house where we are staying, I promptly took a shower and went to sleep. The shower felt great, and the fresh cool breeze as I was falling asleep was luscious.

I feel much better this morning. After my annoying trip and rocky arrival, I am finally feeling happy to be here. It still hasn't sunk in that I'm going to be living here. Yes, I arrived with seven bags of luggage (my mom and brother nicely carried extra check-ins and carry-ons for me), but I'm still staying at my great aunt and uncle's as I have before. Once I get an apartment and start working, that's when things will start feeling different. Below is a view from a window at my great aunt and uncle's house. Welcome to Hawaii.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Off to Hawai'i!

I'm leaving on a jet plane
I don't know when I'll be back again

Yes, I am currently in-transit on my way to Hawaii, where I expect to be living for the next six years or so as I pursue a Ph.D. in physical oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

When I arrive in Honolulu, I will not have an apartment or a car, and I'm not sure when I will start working, so I don't really know how much internet access I will have. Plus my family will be out there visiting so I may be busy doing some vacationy stuff as well. Basically, I'll be pretty busy, so I don't know how much I will be updating my blog in the next couple weeks. But I will do my best to update it with pictures and my adventures as I make Honolulu my home.

I'm pretty intimidated by all the things that I'll have to do once I arrive, but I'm definitely looking forward to the beach, the shave ice, the great Asian food, and the aloha spirit. I can't wait until I'm all settled down out there. And hopefully I'll have a nice place where I can host friends for Hawaii visits. Airfare can be had for pretty cheap these days!

Photos from my previous Hawaii trips to get you primed for things to come:

Find the turtle!

See you on the other side (of the country). Aloha!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

That's the plan.

For my birthday on Sunday, my aunt and uncle and a couple family friends came over for a low-key dinner party. Their focus was less on my 24th birthday and more on my impending move to Hawaii for grad school. At some point over dinner, my aunt said to me, "Well, you are truly a woman of your convictions; you have always loved ocean things and here you are, going for a Ph.D. in oceanography!"

It's true. Ever since I saw The Little Mermaid at age four, ever since my first visit to Hawaii and Sea Life Park at age five, ever since my school project on sea otters at age seven, I have been fascinated by the ocean. I have been interested in science since elementary school, and I was probably in middle school the first time I decided that I wanted to become a marine biologist when I grew up. I played with the idea of other professions along the way--veterinarian, chemical or civil engineer--but it always came back to the ocean. I even majored in environmental engineering, but I would not have chosen that branch of engineering had it not concentrated so much on water and the environment. In college, I spent one summer interning at an aquarium and another summer doing oceanographic research. After graduation, I went back to doing oceanographic research, and now I am about to embark on a Ph.D. program in physical oceanography.

But does this make me a woman of my convictions, or just a woman who doesn't know how to change lanes? People tell you all along that you can always change your mind about what you want to do with your life: Don't like your major? You can change it! Too late to change it? Majors don't really matter anyway! But the fact is that it's always easiest to stay the course. Changing majors involves a lot of catching up on courses. Changing to a job unrelated to your major may involve post-bac courses or unpaid internships to introduce you to the field. And then there are the questions: Why are you switching? What didn't you like about the old field? What do you think you'll like about the new field? Are you sure? It is so difficult and stressful and overwhelming, unless you are completely sure it's the right choice to change course, it doesn't seem worth the hassle.

But how can you know what you want till you get what you want and you see if you like it?
All I know is what I want most of all is to know what I want.*

I don't know what I want. How could I? There is not enough time in life to try everything, and I can't know if I'll like something until I've tried it. If this is true, then the ability to do anything breeds the inability to choose. I can do anything! becomes How I can do anything? becomes I can do nothing.

The reason I am where I am today is that a little girl decided she wanted to learn about the sea. She chose this path for me and, unable to find anything better to do, I have been powerless to foil her master plan. Perhaps what I am is a woman who lacks conviction. A girl who holds onto something not out of purpose but out of bewilderment.

The latest season of How I Met Your Mother (Season 4) concluded with a conversation and revelation that I found profoundly moving. Following a very bad day that involved battling a goat for a washcloth over and over again and losing his latest (and only) commission to design a building to some rival architects, Ted laments his situation with his friends:
Ted: This is a disaster. How am I going to come back from this?
Lily: Okay I'm just going to ask this: Do you really want to come back from this?
Ted: What's that supposed to mean?
Lily: Architecture is killing you, Ted. And it's killing us to watch it killing you. You're like that goat with the washcloth. You want it so bad, and--and every time the world tries to take it away from you, you keep grabbing it. But you know what, it's just a washcloth. Why do you even want it?
Ted: Because I--I have to be an architect. That's...that's the plan.
Lily: Oh, screw the plan. I planned on being a famous artist. Marshall planned on being an environmental lawyer. Robin planned on being a TV reporter.
Robin: Uh, I am a TV reporter. I'm on every morning at 4am.
Lily: Is that still on? Oh, good for you.
Robin: --Hey, somebody watch it, please.
Lily: Barney planned on being a violinist.
Barney: Lily!
Lily: --Don't tell me things! Look, you can't design your life like a building; it doesn't work that way. You just have to live it and it'll design itself.
Ted: So what, I should just do nothing?
Lily: No, listen to what the world is telling you to do and take the leap.
I am different from Ted because while he was struggling to succeed as an architect, I am cruising into this life as an oceanographer. I have not reached a point where anyone had to ask me "Do you really want to come back from this?" If I had... I have no idea what I would do. Would I take the leap? What leap would I take?

Here I am, about to move to a tropical paradise where I will be paid to scuba-dive around coral reefs. My childhood dream is becoming a reality. And I am whining. It's a bit ridiculous, I know. I should be happy. Really, aside from this tiny part of me, I am indeed very happy. After all,

Happy is what happens when all your dreams come true.

...Well, isn't it?

* Cinderella, Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods
** Glinda, Stephen Schwartz's Wicked

Monday, July 13, 2009

First Blogiversary!

So yesterday was my birthday, but today is another special occasion. It's my blog's first anniversary!

I've had a fun, busy year tending to my blog. The blog has evolved somewhat over the past year, shifting to include some more personal stories as well as discussions of my geeky diversions. I've shared quite a lot about myself over the past year, but of course there is always more to tell. In celebration of my blogiversary, here are ten things about me that have not come up on my blog yet. They are not secrets but are the kinds of things that my friends I know in person would know about me. And they are all unrelated to my geeky sci-fi/fantasy interests, because I already cover those pretty thoroughly on this blog.

1. My favorite color is blue. Deep, royal blue is best.
2. My favorite animals are otters, and they have been my favorite since second grade. I have quite a collection of otter things; once people learned that I love otters, whenever it was my birthday or Christmas and they didn't know what to get me they'd get me something otter related. Proof of my otter obsession: I have 28 otter stuffed animals.

3. I was in the theater club in high school. The musicals that I was in are Anything Goes, The Pajama Game, and Big.
4. I took dance classes from age 4 all the way through high school, in tap, jazz, ballet, pointe, modern, and hip hop. I also took a class in modern dance in college. I particularly fancy myself a tap dancer, in the style of tap that Savion Glover does (anyone seen Happy Feet?).
5. I play the flute and sing, too (I've mentioned the singing on this blog before, but not the flute).
6. I have this strange habit of snapping my ear. If like most people you have no idea what this means, basically I pull on my earlobe in such a way that when released it hits the skin behind my ear making a loud snap (as loud as any good finger snap). Yes, some people's idle habits involve biting their nails or tapping their fingers, but I snap my ear. The only way I can break the habit is by wearing large earrings, which prevent the snap.
7. While my mom's family is from Hawaii, my dad's family is from Vermont. I love snowy mountains in addition to tropical beaches.
8. I used to have really long hair. From 7th grade to halfway through my sophomore year in college, my hair was down to my hips. I never quite let it get to the point that I would sit on it.
9. I have had 13 pets throughout my life: 2 dogs, 1 rabbit, 9 gerbils, and 1 fish (the poor fish didn't last more than two weeks).
10. There are two pieces of jewelry that I always wear. One is a floral-themed silver ring with a moonstone (which can actually be seen in my "mirror" photo from the Dollhouse socks post I did for Sebastian). The other is a necklace with just a small gold bead on a chain.

I never knew when I started this blog a year ago whether anyone would ever read it. But it's definitely more fun writing when you know at least someone will see it. So thanks for reading my blog! You all make my day! :-)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It's my 24th birthday!

It's been 24 whole years since I came into the world screaming. Seems like a lifetime ago. Funny how that is.

Yes, today is my 24th birthday! It would now be accurate to say that I have been around for dozens of years. I was told by a Chinese friend that this would be a major birthday in the Chinese tradition, something having to do with their 12-year Zodiac, but much like 22 and 23, I haven't gained anything particularly significant by turning 24. Except perhaps that I am now undoubtedly in my mid-twenties, whereas yesterday by being 23 I could get away with claiming to be in my early twenties. Definitely mid-twenties. I don't feel grown up enough to be 24.

How should I celebrate this birthday on my blog? Seeing as I am home right now and have access to my parents old photo albums, my thought was BABY PICTURES! So I have selected a few pictures from my first year of life to share.

When I was a baby, when my hair grew in, it grew straight up. I was a punk.

Here's a nice one of me with our old dog, Pua. She was a really great dog with us babies--we could poke her or walk on her or whatever, and she would just sigh and tolerate it, or, if she really wanted us to stop, she would lick us. Good dog.

And here are the pictures from my first birthday. It seems I got a birthday pie instead of a birthday cake, but it looks pretty good. Mmm.

Mom leans me in to blow out my candle, but I bet it was my helpful brother standing by who actually put it out.

Sampling the pie...


Happy birthday also to Bill Cosby, Anna Friel, Topher Grace, Brian Grazer, Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Rodriguez, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Henry David Thoreau, among many others!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sequels, musicals, the new GL, and more

I've been busy, so it's been a while since I gave an update on interesting entertainment news. Time to get on that.

Shia LaBeouf confirmed that a fifth Indiana Jones movie is in the works (IMDb). He says that Steven Spielberg has "cracked the story on it", but does not give any details. Speculation continues as to whether Harrison Ford will appear in the film, or if by handing over his iconic hat to LaBeouf as they wrapped the fourth film he was handing over the lead of the franchise as well. The fourth installment of the franchise, which came almost 20 years after the third, was not well received critically, but it grossed an impressive sum at the box office, which is all the studio needs to go after another film.

Speaking of gratuitously extending franchises, Tom Cruise has signed up for a fourth Mission: Impossible movie (IMDb). He has actually signed on to produce as he has in the previous installments, but he has not yet confirmed that he will reprise his role of Ethan Hunt. It's kind of assumed that he will, though. Mission: Impossible III director J.J. Abrams will be co-producing. MI3 was pretty good, so let's hope they can keep it up for MI4.

Michael Bay, the Transformers director best known for movies with lots and lots of big explosions, has said that he may be giving up big explosions (IMDb, IMDb)! Apparently frustrated with all the flak he gets from critics for his big action movies--the latest Transformers movie in particular--he said he's "had enough" with making big budget blockbusters. He says that the action sequences are very hard to make, and it seems he is sick of them not being appreciated. He does not want to participate in the Transformers 3 movie which is sure to come. I'm not 100% sure if he really plans to drop out of the franchise or if he was just doing some venting. But since I have in the past kind of lightly poked fun at him for being the "I like to blow things up" guy, I feel like I should re-recognize that he does do other things.

Columbia Pictures is in talks with David Fincher to direct the Facebook movie, the script of which was written by Aaron Sorkin (Variety). The movie will tell the story of Facebook, from its founding by Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 to the 200-million-member monster that it is today. Sounds like a tragedy to me--My friends and I are among those early 2004 Facebook members who can recall when Facebook was a little network open to fewer than a dozen schools, so we were the ones sighing when they let high schoolers join and humphing when they opened it up to everyone. We were particularly peeved once our parents started joining. But we were powerless to stop the juggernaut, and I suppose keeping it for ourselves would have been selfish, not to mention less profitable to those actually in charge. I still think this sounds like a dull idea for a movie, but these are respectable people involved, so we'll see how it turns out.

More news on Spider-Man: The Musical! Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming are confirmed to star in upcoming Broadway musical Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark as Mary Jane Watson and Norman Osborn, a.k.a. the Green Goblin, respectively (Variety). Alan Cumming already has some familiarity with the Marvel universe, having starred in the second X-Men film as Nightcrawler (which will make any Green Goblin makeup seem like nothing, I'm sure). The role of Peter Parker has yet to be cast.

Speaking of Broadway musicals, time for a little bad news: Avenue Q will be closing on Broadway on September 13 (Variety). I've mentioned it a few times before on this blog, but I really love this musical--I saw it on Broadway with the original cast twice (the only show I've seen twice), and I can sing half the songs from memory. It's clever and sweet and hilarious and has some great tunes. And, as a twenty-something wondering how she's going to find her purpose, it really resonates with me. I wasn't actually planning on seeing the show again on Broadway, but I did like knowing it was still there, spreading the joy to the uninitiated--those who had yet to realize that everyone's a little bit racist, that it sucks to be me (but not as much as it sucks to be Gary Coleman), and that the internet is for porn. Avenue Q, I'll miss you.

An update on this Guy Ritchie Guys and Dolls movie with Jason Statham: Reportedly, Ritchie is in talks with Justin Timberlake to get him to star in the movie with Statham (IMDb). Nothing's confirmed as far as I know, but I'll be keeping a lookout for this one. It could be good, it could be terrible. We'll have to wait and see.

It looks like after a successful hosting of the Tony awards, Neil Patrick Harris is lined up to host the Emmys (Variety). Legendary. I think NPH is completely awesome, so I'm excited to see him anywhere. Having him host the Emmys also seems like a shrewd move by CBS, which is airing the telecast in September as it promotes the upcoming premiere of the fifth season of How I Met Your Mother, in which Harris stars.
> Update 7/13/09: It is now officially confirmed that NPH will be hosting the Emmys on September 20.

Cameron Diaz is in talks to star opposite Seth Rogen in comic book movie Green Hornet, which Michel Gondry is set to direct (IMDb). I don't really have anything else to say about that--just a little tidbit there that that movie is moving along.

This is the big new news: It looks like Green Lantern has finally been cast, and it's Ryan Reynolds! (Variety blog) He is also still set to reprise his X-Men Origins: Wolverine role as Deadpool in an upcoming spinoff-of-a-spinoff Deadpool movie. This means that Reynolds will be straddling the comic book universes with Marvel's Deadpool and DC's Green Lantern (I think making him the only actor with movie roles in both universes). Pick a side, man. Anyway, I hope he'll be good as GL. I'm ashamed to admit that the only movie I've actually seen with him in it is Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (in which he apparently played "Male Nurse"), but I am certainly aware of many other things he's done. I hope the Green Lantern movie turns out well. DC needs more than just its Batman movies.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sci-fi hotties at Entertainment Weekly

This is my kind of poll! has a "Sci-fi Hotties of '09" photo gallery and poll going on right now. There are actually two of them: one for the women, one for the men. Caution: Contents are HOT.

As a sci-fi nerd, seeing these lists sent me into squees of glee. But choosing just one to vote for is torturous! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So long, and thanks for all the blue crabs!

Yesterday was my last day of work. I was about a week and a half short of living and working at the lab for two years, though if you count the three months I spent there one summer as an undergrad, that puts me over the two year mark. This was my first job out of college, and my first real job with yearly salary and paid leave and benefits and the whole deal. there were some good times (my paper getting published) and some bad times (getting my paper published), but overall it was a great experience.

I hadn't thought there was anyone in particular that I would miss. I didn't get as close to anyone there as I had gotten to my friends in college, and my closest friend at the lab had already left in May. Yet when I stopped by this morning to turn in a separation/termination form, I started getting a little teary-eyed as some of the students who saw me said final goodbyes and wished me luck. I probably should have said more to them, but I made a hasty escape once the tears started threatening; I didn't want to cry in front of anyone who wouldn't cry for me. And I don't think any of them would have cried for me.

The sadness may not come from missing anyone in particular, but missing the place. It was home for two years, it was familiar and known, it was comfortable, and now it's a memory. I don't know when I'll go back, if ever. I cried a little on my 8-hour drive back to my parents'. It was something on the radio that set me off, but I don't remember what song... it was probably something embarrassing, anyway.

Somewhere in Connecticut, it started drizzling, but it was still perfectly sunny where the sun was setting in the west. For about 10 minutes, I had a perfect view of a huge, brilliant, full double rainbow from the highway. I was kicking myself for leaving my camera somewhere in the great big pile that was the back seat of my car. I suppose if I had been bolder I might have pulled over on the side of the highway to fish out my camera (as I contemplated this, I saw a sign telling me "Pull over only for emergencies" and debated with myself whether or not my need to take a picture was an emergency), but I decided it was a bad idea. I really wanted a picture of the rainbow (a fitting sign, perhaps, in my sadness at moving), but alas, it will exist now only as a memory.

On the bright side, I will soon be moving to Hawaii, the land of "liquid sunshine" and rainbows. I expect many pictures of double rainbows to come.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Weekend box office 7/3-5/09

It was a tight race for first place this weekend at the box office as animated sequel Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs opened to battle the second weekend of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The numbers were too close to call at first, but Transformers came away from the weekend with slightly more, $42.3 million to Ice Age's $41.6 million. Overseas, at least, Ice Age had the victory with $151.7 million, the sixth best international opening of all time. Transformers is earning money at a faster rate than any movie other than The Dark Knight, though the question is whether that will keep up. In spite of critics' hugely negative reviews, people are still seeing the movie (I can't fault them--I mean, I saw it). Some analysts predict it may break $800 million worldwide.

Public Enemies scored a solid $26.2 million in its opening weekend, along with generating some early (and possibly premature) Oscar buzz. The Proposal came in fourth with $12.5 million to bring its total to $94.3 million. The Hangover placed fifth, taking in $11.3M to cross the $200 million mark. Rounding out the Top 10 are Up, which Transformers has now bumped to second place in terms of highest grossing movie of the year, with $6.52M, My Sister's Keeper with $5.79M, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 with $2.53M, Year One with $2.32M, and The Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian with $2.04M. Anyone notice how all these sequels seem to refuse to put numbers in their titles, using only a subtitle to distinguish themselves from the original?

IMDb Studio Briefing
Box Office Mojo


I realized that in my post yesterday (journal entries about my Alaska cruise) I didn't actually include any photos from Glacier Bay (the one I put under the Glacier Bay journal entry was in Tracy Arm...), or even any photos of glaciers! This must be remedied.

Unfortunately, I don't have that many good photos from Alaska. I had just been given my first real camera as an early birthday present, so I hadn't quite figured out the tricks of how to use it--and by that I mean a surprising number came out blurred or out of focus. I didn't have a very big memory card, and it was a long trip without an opportunity to upload photos, so I didn't get to take as much of a selection of photos as I would have liked. I also don't have much of a knack for composition, though sometimes I get lucky. Anyway, here are a few more photos from my Alaska cruise--this time, with glaciers!

Mendenhall Glacier, outside of Juneau

A different view of Mendenhall Glacier, with people

The color of the water in glacial pools is fascinating

Looking away from Mendenhall Glacier

Marjorie Glacier in Glacier Bay

That's one thing you don't always realize about glaciers: most of them are really dirty. This is actually very clean compared to the Great Pacific Glacier, which we also saw in Glacier Bay (but I didn't get a good picture, sadly).

Mist around Glacier Bay

As far as glacier-viewing goes, it would have been nice if the weather had been a bit clearer, but the clouds did look pretty cool.

I'll also repeat my two favorite photos from yesterday's post, so I can comment on them:

Looking west toward Vancouver Island after setting sail

I just love the calm, glassy water in this one.

A glacial valley seen from Tracy Arm

That's what they teach you in science class: glaciers carve U-shaped valleys. I love the color of the water in this fjord.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday stroll down memory lane

So I missed my Saturday stroll down memory lane yesterday because I was out with friends all day: beach, dinner, fireworks, a movie... It's hard to believe it, but I went an entire day without turning on my computer. Anyway, Sunday is also a perfectly lovely day to walk down memory lane.

Four years ago, I was enjoying a busy start to my summer, and I documented much of it in my private journal.

Started my internship at New England Aquarium today. Broke the soap dispenser as I was getting into the shower in the morning. It was early (6:45--earlier than I'd probably been up in months), so give me a break.

Discovered Kukui [our gerbil who was black and round like a kukui nut] had died this morning just before I had to leave for the aquarium. Left a note for the others, but I guess they didn't see it. They buried her later in the afternoon, but before I came home. Not much of a funeral. It's the first time in about 16 years that we've had only one pet.

There was a body floating in the harbor this morning. A couple aquarium people were on the roof and saw it and called the police. They blocked the area off, and removed the body. I heard they estimated the body was like 3 days dead, but I haven't heard who it was or any of the details.

This morning, my brother and I had some excitement. I had let the dog out since she had asked. I was watching her out the window, and I noticed her suddenly go poised and ready, then shoot off towards the neighbors' fence. She is really not a competent hunting dog, but she had that look of being after something. I bolted outside yelling after her. What she had found was an adorable baby deer. I dragged the dog back inside, then called my brother out to see it. The fawn was on the other side of the fence in the neighbors' backyard, and we started to approach it. It let us get surprisingly close--perhaps it was too young to know better. We wondered where its mother was. Was it lost? I went inside to get my camera, but when I came back out, it had disappeared.

So here was my excitement of the day.
I was at the Edge of the Sea exhibit [touch pool at NEAq] around 11:45, over by the sandy area with the hermit crabs, whelks, periwinkles, lobster, and horseshoe crab, where I usually like to stand. Suddenly, there's this man in front of me, showing his kids the exhibit. It's Daniel Dae Kim--Jin, from Lost. This was my first face-to-face encounter with a celebrity (though it's not like he's the hugest star or anything). I was way too shy to say anything, so I just did the professional thing, telling his kids about the horseshoe crab, flipping it over to show its book gills and mouth and such, and showing the molts. But being the geek that I am, I was totally excited.

The biggest event of the summer was my family's Alaskan cruise. My grandparents on my mother's side bought tickets for the whole family (themselves, their three children and respective families--15 in total) on the Holland America ship the Zaandam. I had never been on a cruise before, nor had I been to Alaska. It was spectacular.

Tonight we stayed at a hotel outside of Vancouver (our cruise leaves from Vancouver tomorrow) where they were filming a scene for the movie John Tucker Must Die. It sounds like it will be a terrible movie, but it was kind of cool to see the movie set stuff. It did mean that at midnight, there was an incredibly bright light outside our window and kids getting off a school bus and cheering, over and over again. I took a couple pictures of it from our window.

It's the first day of our Alaska cruise. It was absolutely gorgeous as we set sail from Vancouver, BC. Sunny and windy.

Emily and I spent some nice time out on the front deck, and there were only a couple other people who came out on the front deck while we were there. It was incredibly windy. It was also hard to find--we'd seen the deck from a lookout deck on level 10 or so, and we set out to find this lower front deck, but we walked around the third, fourth, and fifth deck before we realized that we had to go through these unmarked doors on deck 3 to climb the stairs up to the front deck. Anyway, when we found it, we were very pleased with ourselves. Had to stand at the front of the ship like Rose and Jack. Then Nate, Tom, and Caroline spotted us from up on some other deck, and we said to come down. Took tons of pictures.

My cousins and me on the front deck

Played a bit of Scrabble in the library tonight before bed. I started with an entire 7-letter word "PETUNIA" which gave me 74 points. Yay.

Saw a dolphin breaching this evening (about 10:00). Watched the sun set over the water at about 10:37. It was awesome. There was this poor moth out on the front deck, holding on for dear life, since it was soooo windy out on the front deck.

Time stamp: 10:27 pm

Went to the Karaoke Night. Emily was the only one of us who sang (the rest of us were too shy). Some random lady had said someone should do the Titanic song, and I supported the idea (I know it might seem like a bad idea because the Titanic sank and all, but I thought it would be funny). When the karaoke announcer guy Mark announced that Emily was singing "My Heart Will Go On", he gave her the mic and I overheard him saying to this other cruise staff person Scott something like, "Every time someone does this one, I always feel like killing myself." I gave them a good glare to show them I heard, so Mark followed up with hasty a "But I'm sure your friend's going to be fine." Boy were they surprised [Emily, after all, is going to school for voice and may go into a career in opera--she has a gorgeous mezzo-soprano voice]. Afterwards, Mark admitted to the audience that, before the song, he had told Scott that whenever someone does this song in karaoke (and he's done a lot of karaoke so he's heard it many times), he always feels like sticking a knife in his ear, but that is no longer the case, because Emily was amazing. Go Emily, you show that pig.

We saw Glacier Bay today. Very nice glaciers. Saw a good bit of calving. Took lots of pictures. Also saw sea otters, humpbacks, a harbor seal, and another bald eagle.

A glacial valley

Saw orcas today. We were in the outdoor pool on the Lido deck, which was sufficiently warm. It definitely was cold though whenever we jumped out to see the orcas. Apparently, the ones that live in this area don't even eat any warm-blooded animals. So said the whale watch person on the cruise, but I don't know whether that's true or just something she said to make us feel better.

This was actually in July, but I figured it made narrative sense to bring some closure to the cruise...

Disembarkation today. So sad. My uncle kept saying "Good morning!" No, it's not.

We went to the Vancouver Aquarium which was very nice. NEAq is a much older aquarium and thus isn't as shiny and impressive.

Saw the Zaandam leaving with her new passengers. *Sniff.* But we had a good time.

Zaandam embarks with her new lucky passengers

See more photos from my trip here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in the theater and, well... the critics kind of have a point. I want to make it clear that I loved the first movie that came out in 2007. I loved it perhaps more than it deserved. But while I enjoyed the sequel--I wasn't angry that I'd wasted my $7 on it--I really couldn't recommend it to anyone. And I don't need to see it again.

Here are some notable aspects of the Transformers sequel.

Bigger robots
In the first movie, Optimus Prime and Megatron were the big guys. This movie had a few really, really big Transformers (which were strangely always on the Decepticon side). But they seemed to have traded size for brains, as none of these big transformers had any character or apparent thought. They acted solely as plot devices and eye candy.

More explosions
Really, more of all special effects. I have to say that I continue to be impressed by these effects sequences. I love watching the transformers grappling with one another. I get especially excited in chase scenes, when they're driving down the road then transform and leap at an opponent, then in midair transform back into the vehicle and continue their pursuit. Good stuff. And lots of explosions are fun to watch too.

Sophisticated humor
The main thing that I rolled my eyes at in the first movie was the "lubricant" jokes. Bumblebee emptying some lubricant from his robo-crotch onto Agent Simmons, and the chihuahua "leaking lubricant" on an Autobot's foot. Ugh. Oh well, I'm sure the kids (and the immature) thought it was great. Well, in this sequel, they officially graduated from pee jokes to hump jokes. The dogs were humping each other, Mikaela's pet Decepticon humped her leg... Yes, it was all about the humping. Great. What will be the joke in the next movie?

Basically, it was just not as funny as the first
I could see it trying really hard to have cute, funny lines like the first movie had, but all of the quips in the sequel just fell flat. No lines stuck in my head as clever or hilarious. Part of the movie's problem was the very fact that this was a sequel. Much of the humor in the first movie was in how all the characters--Sam, Mikaela, Sam's parents, the soldiers--reacted to their first encounters with the transformers. They tried to recapture some of that by bringing in Sam's college roommate, but he was much more an annoying burden than a humorous asset. Also, another important part of the first movie's humor was Sam's awkwardness. Now that he has the girl and he's been through a firefight, Sam is significantly more mature, he's not nearly so awkward, and he's just not as inherently funny. Really, no one was as funny as they were in the first movie.

Not about the characters
At least in the first movie, the soldiers got a little time to establish personality. Captain Lennox has a wife and baby. Everyone gives Fig a hard time for speaking Spanish. Soldier bonding time. In the sequel, the soldiers were total non-characters. There was also very little development between Sam and Mikaela. In spite of the fact that the main subplot between them was Sam's reluctance to say the L word which--spoiler alert!--he finally does say at the end, it didn't feel like their relationship had changed at all. Saying a single word does not in itself count as character development.

Skin jobs
Really? Skin jobs? In Transformers? I do not recall any Transformers-Barbie toy line (though let's face it, if they had made them, I probably would have bought them). Transformers transform into technological thingies. Not people. So even though you could totally see it coming--that this person was actually a Decepticon--it still seemed completely out of nowhere. It was like it was out of a different movie. The skin jobs belonged in last month's Terminator. They do no belong in Transformers.

Girl Autobots
The 2007 Transformers movie had only a handful of robots, and all of them were decidedly masculine. In the sequel, they introduced a few pink and purple Autobots with curvy chassis and feminine voice simulators. And I use the word "introduced" very loosely--I was never sure if there were two or three of them, since the two scenes in which they made an appearance went by really fast, and I think they had only one short line between them (punctuated with the speaker getting incapacitated). These female Autobots transformed into matching motorcycles, and were thus on the petite side of the battle transformers. They were relatively wimpy, and their characters were completely insignificant. If this was an attempt to be PC... Fail.

The Twins
I had read in some commentary before seeing the movie that there were some characters that people were calling the new Jar Jar Binks. Watching the movie, it became clear that they were referring to the twins, Skids and Mudflap, the blatant walking--I mean driving--ads for Chevy's Trax and Beat models ("Ooh, upgrade time!" "Check out the new models" as the camera slowly pans around the two cars displayed in the center of the room). The twins had big ears, bad teeth, couldn't read, and constantly bickered in street slang. They were clearly intended as comic relief, particularly because the writers seemed to have tapped out the Sam-Bumblebee humor in the first movie. But, as with Jar Jar Binks, one finds oneself sitting in the audience trying to figure out if they're amusing or offensive. At the very least, I did not find them funny.

Really, really long
It's not just that it's long (after all, my favorite movies are the LotR movies)--it's that it feels long. I don't know how long the desert battle sequence at the end really is, but it certainly felt like it was at least an hour. A never-ending stream of explosions, battling robots, and running and dodging humans. That is the essense of Transformers 2. And the movie proves that there can be too much of a good thing.

OK, so I've been pretty harsh, especially since I said that I enjoyed the movie. A movie doesn't have to be good to be entertaining. And this movie was entertaining enough for me to find it enjoyable.

Driving home from the movie, we got whomped with a huge thunderstorm. Driving rain, bright-as-daylight flashes of lightning, and crashing thunder. It was raining hard enough that it was probably unsafe to drive (my wipers were working fine, allowing me to see right through the windshield into a solid wall of rain), but we had to rush home to unplug our computers (the lightning was really right above us). It was an odd experience driving home in that weather because my brain was still set on battle mode from the Transformers movie. The rain was pelting bullets, the lightning and thunder bombs exploding, and it was up to me and my car to dodge our way through the battle. Good times.