Friday, January 29, 2010

Level 2 Rogue!

The Housemate locked himself out of his bedroom tonight (we each have individual keys to our bedrooms in our house). This was actually quite a dire situation. He had not an hour earlier bought a brand new surfboard (so far he has been using a couple used boards that aren't so good for him), and he had grand plans to head out early tomorrow morning with a couple friends for a Saturday surf trip. The surfboard (his new baby!) was locked in his room. This was not just a matter of sleeping on the couch, it was a matter of ruining his perfect plan to ride his new board tomorrow (First flight seals the bond! You cannot wait!)--ruining his weekend! Our landlady, of course, has an extra key, but she lives across town, and it was fairly late. We tried calling her but got only her mailbox. It looked like we would have to find some other way into the room.

What were our options? We live on the second floor, so the window wouldn't be easy, especially since it's inconvenient to break glass (and replace it later). Breaking down the door would have been easier, but it would have a similar destruction element, having to replace the lock/door/door frame. The landlady would not be pleased. I had a fake credit card on hand (one of those sent in junk mail with "Your name here" printed along the bottom), but his door was so tight that we couldn't slip it in anywhere. That left one option: we were going to have to pick the lock.

We did not know how to pick locks. At all. I had never had cause to pick a lock before. I had heard people refer to "five pin locks", but I mean, I always thought this meant it required five pins to pick it (how do you even handle five pins?!). Sure, I've picked tons of locks in computer games before--rogues are awesome--but it's not like you ever need to understand the mechanics of lock-picking to do so. You just point and click or, at best, play a little mini game to crack it. The Housemate and I both had a sense that paper clips or hairpins would be useful for the task, but other than that we were clueless. Luckily, there's the internet. A little searching led me to this site. After skimming sections 2-4, I felt like I'd give it a try. Armed with a Swiss Army knife screwdriver and a large safety pin, I attacked the lock.

I fiddled with the pin for a while, and I changed which Swiss Army knife tool I was using twice, trying to get a better grip. Before too long, I felt the cylinder slipping, then turning some more, and then--it turned all the way! In excited disbelief, I reached for the doorknob, turned it, and FTW! The door swung open!

As the Housemate, standing by me, exclaimed "No!" in astonishment, I put my arms up in victory. What was the first thing out of my mouth? "Level 2 Rogue!" The surf trip is saved. And you know what that means for me? A whole day to myself to play Dragon Age.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mass Effect 2 is out!

Mass Effect 2 launch trailer

Today is the release of Mass Effect 2! I will not be playing it yet, first of all because my copy has not arrived in the mail, and second because I am still playing Dragon Age: Origins. Yes, I still haven't finished, so distracted by schoolwork and, well, a social life (who'da thought?). Why didn't BioWare space out its releases a little better?

Still, I am totally psyched for Mass Effect 2. I am anxious for more of the story, much like I am just before the premiere of a new season of a TV show (just one more week until Lost is back! eek!) I'm kind of nervous about the storyline, though, this being the dark second chapter in the planned trilogy. I was rather attached to several of the characters from the first Mass Effect, and since Tali is the only one of the original ME party announced as a party member in ME2, I'm dreading what might happen at the beginning of the game. These people having nothing against killing off NPCs.

I am excited to learn more about Cerberus, the shady organization that seemed to cause all sorts of problems that Commander Shepard encountered in the first game, but never truly confronted. They have none other than Martin Sheen playing the "Illusive Man" who heads Cerberus, and it seems Shepard is working with him. A very promising storyline.

I've also watched all the videos about the classes, which are in general the same as in the original game--same names, same basic idea (soldier, biotic powers, tech abilities, or a lesser combination of two)--but with some cool changes. Each has a unique ability that none of the other classes can have. My favorite class in the original was the Vanguard--a biotic/soldier cross (biotic powers + shotgun = fun). In ME2, Vanguards can do a biotic charge, zapping over drops or through barriers to attack an enemy or escape from battle. Sounds a bit like KotOR's Force Jump (which I loved using), except it can get you out of the fray as well as into it. The other class abilities sound fun, too--particularly the Infiltrators who can cloak themselves.

It seems guns will be more fun with more emphasis placed on the effects of different types of ammo and the ability to hit certain regions of the body, blowing off arms, etc. Biotic powers have been improved, gaining some real offensive capabilities (like you could actually kill someone with them). And they've been publicizing the new conversation interrupt, where if you don't like the way a conversation is going, you can just shoot the guy. Not that I usually play that way (those sound files take up so much room on my hard drive, I might as well hear them out, right?), but it's a cool option.

OK, enough gushing. Time to go play DAO so I can play Mass Effect 2 when it arrives. Good times.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Golden Globes, Spidey director, and a Push TV show

So Avatar won big at the Golden Globes, taking both Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Director - Motion Picture for James Cameron (who even spoke a bit of Na'vi in his acceptance speech). I was pretty surprised by Avatar's win, but then again, the Golden Globes are sort of a funny award, voted on by something like 86 people, compared to the thousands who vote on Academy Awards and the PGA, DGA, and SAG awards. The Oscars are more likely to follow the various Guild awards than the Golden Globes. On the TV front, Glee was triumphant as the Best TV Show - Musical or Comedy (it is both, after all). It deserved it, and seeing all those cast members on stage made me so happy. If only they'd let them sing themselves off the stage.

In a previous post I reported that the fourth Spider-Man installment with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire had been scrapped and instead a high-school Spider-Man reboot would be made. Now Marc Webb has signed on to direct the reboot (Variety). Webb most recently directed (500) Days of Summer. Not exactly the type of movie I'd watch and say "Wow, this guy should direct Spider-Man!" But that doesn't mean he can't. Maybe he'll make it great, and soon we'll be saying "Tobey who?"

My last little bit of news is that Summit Entertainment, is planning on developing a Push TV show (Variety). One of my earliest posts on this blog (makes me so nostalgic thinking back *sniff*) was about the sci-fi movie Push (not to be confused with a certain movie based on the novel Push by Sapphire). I had read the script a couple years before the movie came out in the theaters, which had the movie geek in me all excited (an inside scoop! or something). They cast Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, and Djimon Hounsou in lead roles--all good choices. The movie wasn't as good as it could have been, but I still enjoyed it. And now they're trying to make it into a TV series. David Hayter, who scripted Watchmen (also not as good as it could have been), is writing the series, which is kind of promising. I wouldn't expect much of the movie caliber cast to return for the TV series if it gets made, though. I am skeptical about the quality of a possible Push TV show, but I am excited at the prospect of the franchise continuing. We'll see how it plays out.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sci-fi nominees, Avatar's success, and Spidey 4 scrapped

Now for bits of recent entertainment news that have caught my eye...

It was a good year for sci-fi movies. The Producer's Guild of America nominations have been announced, and they include three sci-fi films: Avatar, District 9, and Star Trek. The PGA's decision to follow the Oscars in increasing the number of best picture nominees from 5 to 10 allowed such "non-awards bait" movies as these to pick up nominations. Up also received a PGA nomination. In the recent past, an average of 4 of 5 PGA nominees have also been nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. If that holds true this year, it will be a very abnormal Oscar (space?) race. See all PGA nominees here.

After only three weeks in the theater, James Cameron's Avatar has surpassed Return of the King to become the second highest worldwide grosser of all time (Variety). RotK closed at $1.1 billion, and as of Thursday, January 7, Avatar had grossed $1.14 billion. It now stands second only to Cameron's own Titanic, which took in $1.8 billion at the global box office. Whether or not Avatar can pass Titanic will depend on repeat business, but we can safely say that Cameron knows how to make a lot of money.

Blake Lively has been cast as leading lady Carol Ferris opposite Ryan Reynolds's Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern movie (Variety). At 22, she is 11 years Reynold's junior, and best known for her role in CW series Gossip Girl. An interesting choice.

Paramount is planning ahead, scheduling the release of the untitled Star Trek sequel for June 29, 2012 (Variety). 899 days and counting. Yeah, I'm just a little excited.

And the big news of the day (well, yesterday): The fourth Sam Raimi - Tobey Maguire Spider-Man installment has been called off. It seems director Raimi walked after being unable to agree with the studio over the direction of the story, and Maguire followed (Variety). Columbia Pictures will instead be rebooting the franchise with a James Vanderbilt script featuring a teenage Peter Parker. The first two Maguire Spider-Man movies were great, but after the disappointing third film, I'm not too sad to see the fourth called off.

Edit - Additional bad news for Spidey came out today (1/12): Spider-Man, Turn off the Dark producers are giving customers who bought tickets refunds, since due to production delays the show will not be able to start previews on February 25 as planned (Variety). They haven't called it off entirely, saying that the show will open some time in 2010, but it's not looking good.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My sledding video!

I posted photos from my Vermont trip yesterday, but I have not yet posted the sledding video I made. Why did I make a sledding video? Well, the Housemate was talking about how he would take video of himself surfing in Indonesia this winter break so he could show me the awesome Sumbawa waves, and he even has this cool camera that he can attach to his surfboard and all, so I said, "Well then, I'll take video of" I was thus committed to producing a sledding video.

As most of my stories go these days, my camera could have cooperated better. The main problem actually was not enough memory, so I could only get one take from each camera position. The second problem, of course, was not being able to see the screen, so I couldn't actually see what I was shooting when I had the camera perched on my shoulder. Right--I had this cool rigging set up so the Gorillapod (which I received in my stocking this Christmas) was holding onto the overall-like straps of my snow pants, and the camera was held upright by being nicely nestled in the neck of my parka. Anyway, since I was leading forward most of the time while sledding, all the camera really got was my legs (not very interesting--all bulked up by the snow pants), the red sled, and a bit of snow whooshing by on the side. So most of that footage was wasted. Ah well.

This is by far the most edited video that I have ever put together--I was learning the software as I went along. I think it came out reasonably well all things considered. Hmm... this will be the first sample of my voice on my blog. I'm not sure it's particularly representative, since I was being silly while narrating my video, especially with the "Oh noooo!" as I try desperately to stop before the gate at the bottom of the hill without getting my camera wet in the snow. Pretty tricky.

Well, here it is. Enjoy!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Need to cool down...

Forget the sweet smells of yestreen. Nights are relatively cool, and thus tolerable. Now it is afternoon, it is hot (80 F/27 C outside, though who knows what it is in my living room), and I am longing for a little chill. Maybe sharing my New Year's photos will help cool me down...

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent New Year's at a cabin up on a mountain in Vermont with 23 relatives and close friends. It's a family tradition; we've only missed a few years since the cabin was built (which was maybe 12-15 years ago). The cabin belongs to my uncle, though the plot of land it is built on was bought by my grandfather and thus belongs to my dad and all his siblings. It is very nice, particularly if you like hiking or cross country skiing, depending on the season. From the cabin on a clear day you can see both up to the peak of the mountain and down to Lake Champlain with New York state on the far side. Seeing as it was snowing most of the time we were up there, we couldn't see those things. In years past, we've been able to see the Burlington fireworks show in the distance. Not this time, unfortunately.

This first photo isn't mine, but I actually didn't get any shots of the entire cabin myself, so I figured I'd include it (not to mention that it's a better photo than any of mine).

The screen porch on the other side of the cabin.

View down the mountain.

Another shot of the same.

Looking up the mountain.

In this one you can see the snowy mountain a bit better, but it's too cloudy to see the peak.

These next two photos are actually from previous New Year's trips to the cabin, but they're different from the ones I took this time and I figured I could include them for good measure. And anyway, the time stamps on all my new photos are messed up because (I have figured out) when I changed my camera's batteries, it asked me to re-enter the date, but since I couldn't see the screen, I just mashed buttons until it let me take pictures again. Apparently I set the date for February 1, 2005. Oops.

From inside the screen porch.

A snowy creek.

Ahhh, I feel much cooler now.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back home in Hawaii

Sunset had been chasing our plane for the last few hours, but it finally caught up with us as we made our descent into Honolulu. As we dipped down towards the clouds, the setting sun caught their fluffy tops in a breathtaking pink. Fields of cotton candy. I wanted very badly to whip out my camera phone and capture the sight, but since we had already been instructed to turn off all electrical devices (and I hadn't put the phone on airplane mode anyway), I figured such an act would be frowned upon. Alas.

The most striking feature I've been noticing in my return to Hawaii is not the hot weather, the sight of the ocean and palm trees, or the minority of white people. It's the scents. Even in the baggage claim area, plumeria leis laid around the necks of the new arrivals by loved ones or by tour guides lent the air their strong floral aroma. This is Hawaii. I stepped outside the airport and the air was noticeably sweet--plants are thriving and blooming and producing fruit here, and their mixed smells are everywhere in the humid night. Cold, snowy winter air has its own sort of smell, a crisp cleanness--and the pain that comes from breathing cold air through the nose. There's none of that here. This is Hawaii. In my house, I can still smell all the sweet outdoor floral scents because the windows are always open. Quite the contrast from the dry smell of the heated New England house. The scent of the air here--as long as there's not a moped driving by--is delicious. I am home.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year!

I welcomed in 2010 up on the mountain in Vermont; my uncle has a cabin in the woods, where 23 of us crowded in for a couple days to sled, ski, snowshoe, play board games, enjoy each other's company, and ring in the new year. I had a great time playing in the beautiful snow. Pictures will have to wait until I get back to Hawaii, because I can't stand how long it takes to upload photos from my parents' house.

Well, there's nothing like the start of a new year to remind you of everything you wish you'd been doing the previous year but failed miserably at. Here are my little resolutions for 2010. I hope that by nailing them to the wall here, I'll be more inclined to keep them. We'll see how that turns out.

Probably one of the most common New Year's resolutions, but I need it anyway. I was better at exercising on the East Coast than I have been in Hawaii. How wrong is that? Nature is a gorgeous tropical playground year round, so I have no excuse not to be getting some aerobic exercise. Step away from the computer, tie on your sneakers, and go for a jog. I guess I'll have to buy new sneakers first (I still haven't replaced the ones that came apart in the mud at Manoa Falls). But I can also go out swimming, surfing, and hiking. Yes, I will be much more active this year than I was in the past year.

Cook more
I have this whole book of my mom's favorite recipes that she uses quite frequently. Two years ago, I decided I'd master one of my favorite dishes in the book--clam linguini--so I'd feel comfortable whipping it up any time I wanted. I have long since mastered it. Now it's time to move on. I need to choose other recipes to learn, master them, and move on again. I want to diversify my foods without relying on the Housemate's Indonesian cooking. He does more real cooking than I do, and that's not fair. I must do my part.

As much of an environmentalist as I am, I have not been recycling since moving to Hawaii. I know, it's appalling (admitting it here feels a bit like how it must feel for people to admit they are alcoholics). We get trash picked up at our house, but not recycling, even though the recycling truck goes right by the road we overlook behind our house (I think it may have something to do with us living on a narrow dead end street). I showed initial interest in figuring out how to recycle anyway when I first moved in, but since my housemates and I were all pretty lazy, it never happened. Throwing out plastics and glass (I have so far avoided trashing recyclable paper) was painful at first, but I've kind of started getting used to it. That is bad. I will look up where the nearest place is where we can dump our recyclables, and coordinate with my housemates how we're going to do it. I can't throw out milk jugs anymore.

No nagging
I've had a boyfriend for how long now and I'm already sounding like my mother. I hate it. Main issues are his driving (You should start slowing down for the red light earlier!), correcting his grammar (not sure how much I can help that...), and telling him to do his homework (very obnoxious, I'm sure, but I do it when I'm worried I'm distracting him from his work too much). Anyway, I will try not to be so annoying. He's a wonderful Housemate and I don't want him to tire of my nagging.

Four resolutions. That's not bad, is it? I was thinking of saying "Work more, surf the internet less" in order to improve my habits in the office...but that just wouldn't be realistic. It's a new year, not a miracle-maker.