Monday, November 30, 2009

North Shore's swell swell

Last Wednesday, the Housemate and I played hooky and spent the day on the North Shore watching the waves. The only class I was missing was physical oceanography, so I figure it was actually important for me as a PO student to take this field trip and witness the awesome power of physical oceanography at work. Plus, it was the day before Thanksgiving, right?

The reason we had to go on Wednesday was that the swell was huge. 30+ feet. The Housemate had to explain this to me, but with swell that big it was likely that Sunset and Pipeline, two famous and popular breaks on the North Shore (if you've ever heard of the movie Blue Crush with Kate Bosworth, they were surfing Pipeline), would be too unruly to have good waves (it would "close out" or something). BUT Waimea Bay, known for waves so big it makes Pipeline look amateur, only breaks with swell that big. And that doesn't happen very often (several days a year). Since the Housemate is a surfer (though "out of practice" enough that he wasn't going to try surfing the super-huge waves) and I'm a wave lover (PO PhD student, after all), we jumped in the car with our cameras and drove up to the North Shore at 5:30 am to get there by sunrise.

Of course my camera screen, after a brief period where it worked properly, whited out, and I couldn't just use the Housemate's camera because his battery died (it hadn't been fully charged). Kind of bad planning, but remember that we left at 5:30. But I still got a few nice shots to share.

While in the car driving around the North Shore, I played a game of "Encore", trying to think of songs that use the word "wave". The rules of Encore are as follows: you must have 8 words in a row including the word in question, and you must sing with the correct tune or at least some good approximation. In my "wave" game, I deemed any sense of the words "wave" or "waves" acceptable, but words like "waving" or "waved" were not, since the originally desired sense of the word was the noun form. I came up with seven songs that fit the bill. What songs can you think of? It's a fun car game. To get you in the mood for the wave photos, I'll share a snippet from one of the songs (a favorite of mine... I danced to it once):

Fragile as ships as we pass through Gibraltar
The Sirens have long given way
Dark as the murky graveyard of sailors
Whispering secrets told in the crashing waves

-Edwin McCain, "The Rhythm of Life"

And now the photos.

Waimea Bay minutes before sunrise. Pink clouds are nice. The break at the mouth of the bay is where the surfers are in the last photo of this post.

The notoriously dangerous shore break at Waimea. I like how the light caught the higher clouds in this one.


A wave by Pipeline, early in the morning (7:30ish by now)

There was a surfing competition scheduled for that day at Sunsets, but the water was too wild, so it was postponed. (I watched some of the finals for the contest over the weekend--but online in Honolulu. Still pretty cool.)

A tow-in surfer catches a wave at Pipeline later in the morning (9:30ish). You can see the jet ski that towed him in, but you may need to zoom in to make out the surfer to the left.

People watching waves at Pipeline. You can almost make out leaping horses in the wave break. The little orange flag with the sign is a warning about the high surf.

Late morning surfers at Waimea Bay (the break visible in the first photo of the morning). They all go for the wave, but there's a system of priority (based on position and whose turn it is), so the others will pull out once the person with the highest priority shows they're not about to fall down. Looks like quite the ride.

More photos tomorrow!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thor casting, Dark Void, Lost schedule, UFO, etc.

Some little tidbits of recent entertainment news that have caught my eye.

Casting for the Thor movie continues. Anthony Hopkins has been cast as Odin, king of Asgard and father of Thor (Variety blog). Stuart Townsend, Ray Stevenson, and Tadanobu Asano will play Warrior's Three (Variety blog), who fight alongside Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Kat Dennings will play Darcy, who works with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) (Variety). The cast looks pretty good so far.

Reeve Carney has been cast as lead Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Spider-Man: The Musical, aka Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark (Variety). He joins Evan Rachel Wood as Mary Jane and Alan Cumming as the Green Goblin. The show's budget problems continue, but it seems that nothing has been rescheduled or called off, yet (LA Times)

Brad Pitt's Plan B production company along with Reliance Big Entertainment is planning to develop Capcom's video game Dark Void into a movie (Variety). I don't know the game, but I'm always wary of video game-to-movie adaptations, since they're usually so bad. We'll see what becomes of this one.

Lost has had a number of different air times over the course of its run, but ABC has decided that its sixth and final season this spring will air Tuesdays at 9. The season will premiere on Tuesday, February 2, with a two-hour premiere from 9 to 11 pm, then settle into its regular time slot for the remainder of the season (Variety).

Avatar is getting some big promotion from toy deals with McDonald's Coca-Cola, and Mattel. One neat feature are these augmented reality cards that seem pretty cool (Variety--you can see a short video clip of the augmented reality thingy at work). I'm not sure if the new technology is quite at an "hours of entertainment" stage yet, but still, they're worth noting.

The 1970s British TV series UFO is being adapted into a feature film version with Joshua Jackson set to star (Variety). I'm not familiar with the TV show, but Joshua Jackson has proved his value in the sci-fi genre with his work on Fringe. I'll keep my eye out for more news on this project.

And lastly, Joss Whedon has won a Vanguard Award from the Producers Guild of America for his achievements in new media and technology (Variety). Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was an innovative and successful venture, and just one of Whedon's many achievements. Joss is the man. Congrats.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Men kissing men

(Hoping some people in Utah will find my blog through Google searches ;)

So you may have heard that Adam Lambert kissed a guy--his keyboardist--at the American Music Awards last weekend. The incident caused quite a bit of controversy, with some expressing appalled outrage and others delighted support. To be clear, I fall in the latter category, since I look forward to the day when such acts are seen as perfectly acceptable by everyone.

Anyway, I find it interesting how there has been a much stronger negative reaction to Adam's kiss than there tends to be when two women kiss on TV--say, Madonna and Britney at the VMAs. It seems this is because, in general, men like seeing girl-on-girl action but are disgusted by guy-on-guy action. Women, on the other hand, do not have such a strong negative response to seeing girl-on-girl activities. So quite simply, guy-on-guy is offensive to half the population, while girl-on-girl is not particularly offensive to most people.

I have long been puzzled by the apparent disgust men feel at the sight of guy-on-guy action (I remember guys refusing to see Brokeback Mountain because they couldn't bear the one minute of male-male intimacy. Heads lopped off? Blood and guts spilling forth? Cool! Guys humping? Ugh I can't bear to watch it's just so wrong make it go away!!). I think personally, my reaction to seeing a woman kiss another woman is not unlike my reaction to seeing a woman kiss a man I don't find particularly attractive. It's kind of neutral. Not something I'm dying to do myself, but seeing it in a movie or TV show doesn't mean they're making me do it, so why should I care?

The Lambert incident served as a springboard for me to investigate this mystery. I quizzed a male friend over lunch (poor guy) on what exactly this disturbed reaction to male-male action is and why it exists. It is understandably difficult to express, but he made a good effort at getting me to understand his viewpoint.

My first question was "What exactly is this feeling of disgust? I mean, is it like the kind of disgust you'd feel finding a bloody, half-eaten hare with its guts hanging out in your backpack? Or is it like the disgust you feel when your housemates once again leave their dirty dishes on the counter for several days?" His response:
"Well, how would you feel if there were some ugly obese guy in a Speedo making out with an ugly obese girl in a bikini? Wouldn't you think, Ugh, that's disgusting!?"
An interesting point. Of course, ugly people are by definition unpleasant to look at, so it is not unnatural not to want to look at something unpleasant. The two men kissing are not themselves unpleasing to look upon. So it's not an exact analogy, but still, this was an enlightening explanation.

The second question was "Why do you find it so disgusting seeing two guys kiss?"
This was a tougher question with a more hand-wavy response. He explained that a large part of male personality is masculinity, and, to be frank, penetration (implied: of women) is a crucial part of masculinity. Thus, the thought of gay sex which requires a male to be penetrated is so contrary to the nature of men (as seen by straight men) it is abhorrent. I pointed out that seeing two guys kiss is a far cry from forcing you to have gay sex. He said that he does not find men pleasing to look upon, so if both of the kissers are men, it is displeasing to see (I didn't think of it at the time, but this seems pretty irrelevant because obviously men don't mind watching men do other things on TV or in movies). But even if I understand why guys don't enjoy watching men kiss, that doesn't explain why men find it so gross. Here he brought out the fat and ugly couple in bikinis example, saying that seeing the kissing is gross because you picture yourself in the situation and find that situation to be gross.

A third, kind of food-for-thought question that we discussed was whether the negative reaction to men kissing is instinctual/natural or cultural/societal. He was quick to blame it on nature, but my little knowledge of the ancient Greeks gave us pause. According to Wikipedia, it didn't matter so much the gender of the person a man was penetrating, it just mattered that the penetratee was a social inferior--a woman, a slave, or a youth would be acceptable. In such a society, two guys having sex would not be seen as abnormal, as long as the more dominant of the two were doing the "active", penetrating role. Since this was well-accepted in society, I would bet that in that culture, men would not have been immediately disgusted by seeing two males kissing.

So I guess the summary is that (straight) men find it gross to see two men kiss because they can't help but imagine themselves in that situation which they would find disgusting because it implies sexual relations that defy the very nature of masculinity in our culture. This explanation still has holes, and it is entirely anecdotal, coming from just one person. Does anyone else have any input?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday night fireworks

Every Friday, the Hilton Hawaiian Village (a hotel complex in Waikiki) puts on a short (approximately 5-minute) fireworks show. Thanks to our beautiful view of the Waikiki skyline, we can (mostly) see the show from our big windows. The Waikiki skyline is pretty at night anyway, and when the fireworks start booming, we stop whatever we're doing, turn all the lights off in the house, and enjoy the show.

A panoramic including some fireworks. Sorry one of the panoramic panels was particularly blurry. I'll have to try another panoramic some other time.

(You have to click on it to see the larger version)

On another note, after my cooking success yesterday, I was inspired to try making Thai green papaya salad, which involves shredding a lot of papaya in a grater. Now I'm sporting a band-aid on my finger, and someone may find some skin in their salad that's not so green. Ah well--as my biologist Housemate says, it's all C, H, O, N, P, and S, anyway.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

There are not many places in the world where it is still Thanksgiving, but Hawaii is one of them, so this post is not too late. This was the first Thanksgiving that I did not spend with my parents. We usually have Thanksgiving at either their house or at the house of one of my mother's two siblings. But they all live on the east coast, which is a bit too far to travel for a long weekend.

Instead, I had a lovely Thanksgiving with extended family from my mom's side: my grandparents plus my grandfather's siblings and those offspring of theirs who live on the island. There were just over thirty of us at the party, if my memory serves me correctly. For a "grace" my 10-year-old cousin played a delightfully out-of-tune version of "Simple Gifts" on his violin. Slightly painful, but still cute. We had all the normal Thanksgiving foods: turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie for dessert, but we also had a very nice salmon dish and some sticky fried rice (good old Chinese style), a green salad, a pasta salad (vinaigrette, not mayo thankfully), green beans with almonds, and apple pie. Yum.

I was told that I didn't have to bring anything for the dinner, but to me that just meant that I could bring the cookies that I had been wanting to make. So this afternoon I baked up several dozen pumpkin cookies. I based them off the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling recipe by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito I found while browsing online, but I made a few changes (including doing away with the filling, which would probably be pretty good, too, but I didn't want it). Since I had never made them before, I didn't know how they would turn out, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results. And I must admit that they earned some rave reviews at the party. So I figured I would share my recipe (I was going to say this is my blog's first recipe, but I've remembered that technically I had one before...). If you don't like pumpkin, then don't bother reading on. But you'll be missing out.

Eleni's Pumpkin Cookies
These cookies have a sweet crumbly shell on the outside and a soft, chewy, cakey interior with an aromatic pumpkin and spice flavor. One taster described them as a cross between cookie, cake, and pumpkin pie. It's a relatively easy and quick recipe (took me about half an hour to do the mixing by hand, then however much time it takes to drop them on the sheet and bake them). The following makes about 4 dozen (plus or minus depending on size of the cookies).

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 T. ginger
1/2 T. cloves
1 c. dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 c. butter (1 stick), softened [bring it to room temperature... or warmer if your room is cold; this is more important if you are mixing with a spoon (note: large wood spoon works well), rather than an electric mixer]
1 1/2 c. pumpkin
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
~1 c. white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves and set aside. In another bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar until smooth. Add the pumpkin and mix thoroughly. Add the egg and vanilla and stir until combined. Stir in dry ingredients mixture, mixing until blended completely. [I find it best to pour in maybe a quarter of the mixture at a time, and I'm careful not to stir too vigorously lest the powder go flying out of the bowl]. Chill dough in fridge [I chilled it for about 45 min in the fridge just to make it more manageable in the next step].

Grease cookie sheets. Drop a tablespoon of dough into bowl of white sugar [the 1 c. is just an estimate--just make sure there's sugar in the bowl and pour more in as needed]. Roll dough in sugar, shape into a ball and place on cookie sheet. Repeat, spacing balls of dough with about 1 inch between. Bake until a toothpick stuck into the middle of a cookie comes out clean, 12-15 min (the original recipe said 10-12 min, but I did it more like 15 min, though my oven's temperature may be off).


I've been very lazy about blogging lately, but I have plans for more posts, including some exciting new Hawaii photos. I'll try to be better, I promise. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Autumn in Honolulu

I know that the season formally started almost two months ago, but I'm finally starting to detect a little bit of change in the weather. At long last, it's fall (autumn) in Hawaii. Today's high was a mere 82 F (28 C), and right now at the low it's a brisk and lightly breezy 72 F (22 C). And I must admit, in my sleeveless short knit dress, it feels a bit chilly. Could it be? Am I becoming a softy, a disgrace to my New England upbringing? No, I'm enjoying the relative coolness. Really, I'm very much looking forward to a day when I can wear a long skirt to school without being to hot. I miss my long skirts. I also miss my long sweater-coat thing (not sure what the technical term is), but I've given up hope on that one.

No fall leaves, of course. However, last week there was this large tree on campus--a comose fig, it is labeled--that had bright orange fruits about the size of small grapes which fell to the ground, all within the span of maybe three days. The fruits covered the ground under the tree with a blanket of orange. Honolulu's version of fall! My great regret is that I never brought my camera on my walk to school to take a picture of it. If I'd had a photo to show, this might have been an actually worthwhile post.

Today was Veterans Day--the first day off from classes that we've had since Labor Day (the first Monday in September). The semester has seemed so long. At my undergrad institution, our semesters had only 12 weeks of classes, and the fall semester as well as spring semester had one whole week off in the middle, after midterms week. OK, maybe we were slackers at my alma mater, but here at UH there are 16 weeks of classes, all right in a row (though I did, uh, have that one week in Berlin). It's intense. These little holidays are all we've got.

Fortunately, I've managed to make good use of my holiday today. Making some progress in Dragon Age: Origins. It's been a good day.

Since I am in a relatively autumny mood, I thought I'd share my favorite autumny poem.

Spring and Fall: To a Young Child
Gerard Manley Hopkins

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Oh right, the Blight. Time to get back to DAO...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

At the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

This just in: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Manoa Market is playing Christmas music.

You'd better watch out
You'd better not cry
You'd better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

It's been pointed out before, but it's worth repeating how that song turns Santa into a horror movie creep.

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness' sake

Or what? Oh no! Actually, that reminds me of what was probably the funniest skit in short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, where Chris Hansen catches Santa Claus on his To Catch a Predator series.

Anyway, the point is, it's November 5 and they're already playing Christmas music in Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Pop Christmas music, no less. *Sigh.* What am I even doing in a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, sitting back in the leather couch and sipping my chai tea latte with my work MacBook Pro in my lap? I should be at home diving into my shiny new Dragon Age: Origins on my home PC. November 5--my application deadline was 5:00 pm today, and I am pleased to say that I submitted the application with a whole 117 seconds to spare. And now I am free! Free, in theory, to play DAO. So why am I here?

I am somewhat ashamed though mostly baffled to admit it, but I am here because of the Housemate. He works better here than at home, and I found I kind of do as well, so we've been coming here all week to work on our applications. But since his application isn't due until tomorrow, here we are. I'm here to provide moral and grammar/punctuation support. When I could be gaming. Jeez, what has become of me?

But it's cozy here (a clean, well-lighted place?), I've got my hot chai tea latte, and I'm aimlessly blogging. Feeling pretty good for now. DAO can wait until the weekend. This weekend is going to be fun.

This post was brought to you by The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Have I plugged you enough yet? Please replenish your supply of the spiced honey apple cider already!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 3 has passed me by

November 3 (3 November) has come and gone, and I've been so busy with my proposal (due Thursday, i.e. TOMORROW) that I missed all the fun!

Yesterday, the third of November, 2009, was a hotly anticipated date for two deliciously geeky reasons: it marked the series premiere of ABC's critically acclaimed reboot (remake? reimagining?) of the 1980s sci-fi series V, and it brought the release of BioWare's new dark fantasy Dragon Age: Origins.

ABC has been promoting V heavily all fall, with trailers airing frequently and gorgeous (and creepy, CGI-eyed) Morena Baccarin staring out at us from magazine ads and billboards (I assume the latter--Honolulu doesn't do billboards). The pilot was well received at Comic-Con, and last week the critics came out with stellar reviews of the show, comparing it even to the Battlestar Galactica reimagining (see Variety's review here). In further good news, the numbers from last night are very, very strong, with 5.0/13--13.9 million viewers making it the most-watched series debut of the season (Variety). Unfortunately, we're only being granted a taste this November, as four episodes will air and then it will go on hiatus until the spring. The show airs on ABC Tuesdays at 8/7c. Episodes will be posted on Hulu on Saturdays (obnoxious), but I'm sure one could find it on less reputable sites right now.

Dragon Age: Origins, BioWare's single-player fantasy RPG said to be the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate, was supposed to debut for PC last spring, but they decided to make us wait until November so they could release it for all platforms simultaneously. Hopefully the wait will be worth it. My copy arrived in the mail yesterday, and I would not allow myself to play or even install it because of my approaching deadline. I did allow myself to open it; the shipping box had a green "Time sensitive materials" sticker on it, after all--for all I knew, if I didn't open it yesterday it might have burst into flames (bloody flames, of course) or hatch into a terrorizing (bloody) dragon.

Anyway, yesterday was extremely exciting, but my enjoyment of what it brought must be delayed until Thursday evening. More than I have in a long time, I can't wait for the weekend.