Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tsunami: Fail.

So I've been busy at school this past week and fallen a little behind on things I wanted to share on this blog. Here's one story...

At 6:00 Saturday morning, the siren started. Coming out of a dream that had incorporated this unexpected sound, I was confused. "Is this real?" I think I managed to mumble. As my brain woke up a bit more, I recalled the email we'd received from the university late the previous night: Earthquake in Chile, 8.8, tsunami advisory for 11:19 am... Ah. That's what it is. A tsunami alarm.

The siren was loud and long. They test the alarms at the beginning of each month, but I often don't hear it if I'm inside. I guess they don't run it as long in the tests as they do for the real thing, so it doesn't have time to get to full volume everywhere (since when it runs for minutes it cycles between high and low volume, I theorize that it projects in a certain direction and rotates around). But you'd have to be a very deep sleeper with earplugs in to miss this alarm. My three housemates and I each stumbled out of our rooms. The Ukrainian couple didn't know what was happening, so I filled them in.

We checked out the news. The tsunami advisory had by now been upgraded to a tsunami warning, which I believe indicates the highest degree of risk. It's hard to predict how big a tsunami will be when it hits various places--I don't even know what information they use to make the predictions. But they thought there was a possibility that this would be big. It was all over the news, even getting mentioned in national news. People were hitting up gas stations, buying fresh water and canned food (as if it were a hurricane, really), and heading for the hills. We were safely out of the reach of a tsunami, so we weren't worried.

Within an hour, the Housemate had gotten calls from both his brother and his mother on the mainland, since they'd heard about the tsunami warning on the news and wanted to make sure he was safely away from the beach. No one called me (I finally did get a call from my dad at 11:05, less than half an hour before it was supposed to hit). There was another alarm that sounded at 7:00. After briefly musing about grabbing his surfboard and heading down to the beach, to which I simply replied "No," the Housemate proposed that we go to Diamond Head to watch the tsunami. I thought it might be a bad idea because the authorities probably don't want people on the road during emergencies like this, but I was intrigued... As a physical oceanographer, wasn't it my duty to take this opportunity to witness a tsunami? I said I'd think about it.

Another alarm went of at 9:00. Some friends of the Ukrainian couple arrived to spend the day at our house, since their apartment was close enough to the shore to be evacuated. They brought tales of a Waikiki ghost town, everything closed, police waving people to turn around... I got a little more nervous about going out, but if we approached Diamond Head from the land side, there's no way they'd have closed all those roads down, and the volcano itself would of course be high ground and safe. The Housemate and I decided to go.

Around 10:40 we hopped in the car and drove off to Diamond Head. The roads weren't empty, but they were noticeably less crowded than would be usual for a Saturday. When we got there, we didn't drive through the tunnel to the crater (the path to the peak starts in the crater and zigzags its way up to the top); lots of people were already parked all along the road leading there and setting themselves up on a ridge, so we decided to do the same. We were settled and ready for the tsunami by 11:10. They were now predicting it would arrive some time around 11:35. So we sat there taking pictures of the crowd and the water, hoping for some nice contrasting "before" and "after" photos. We had a good view of Koko Head and the coast leading to it, including a region with a fairly shallow reef that we thought might be revealed as the water receded. We had a closer view of the water right by Diamond Head, but it was somewhat obscured in places by buildings and trees and wasn't so shallow. But it seemed like a relatively good spot. We waited.

I spouted nerdy physical oceanography stuff like "The tsunami would travel across the open ocean at approximately 200 m/s, assuming the ocean is 4000 m deep, which is a fair estimate of average open ocean depth." While a tsunami in the open ocean may not be very high, it is very long (couple hundred kilometers) and thus is associated with a great mass of water. Since it slows down as the water gets shallower (the speed of long gravity waves like tsunamis is simply sqrt(g*depth)), the water "piles up" as it gets towards shore, which is why it is high when it hits. Still, the wave heights may not be that impressive (though they can be enormous)--I think they were worried that ours might be 10 feet high. Waves on the North Shore can be 30ft+! But again, these are long waves, with periods of tens of minutes. The wave doesn't just wash up on shore and within seconds go back out. It keeps coming for minutes and minutes, pushing more and more water up onto the shore. I don't think any of us spectators were expecting some monstrous wave to leap up, knock down trees, and suck houses out to sea. That would have been pretty distressing, actually. But we were hoping to see some reef revealed or some beaches covered. We waited.

And we waited. People around us were calling friends who were watching the news. When is it going to hit? Did it hit the Big Island yet? After all the anticipation, the excitement, and the trepidation, there was nothing to see. I think the largest tsunami waves were 0.8 feet. A rise and fall of the water about equivalent to a tidal cycle was observed in bays, which tend to amplify the effects, but we weren't at a bay. One of our professors said that there was a huge mass of water measured by her instruments moving through the Ala Wai canal. So there was a tsunami, but there was no disaster. Nothing to get excited about. It was better, of course, that no one got hurt, and no shoreline or shoreline property was damaged. Still, after all the hype, we were disappointed. No fun pictures of the tsunami. Maybe next time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mac: Fail.

I'm sorry about this post, but I just need to rant a little bit...

My MacBook Pro just experienced its second kernel panic, after its first less than a week ago. If you don't know what that is, it's when the screen goes dim and tells you you need to shut down your computer by holding down the power button because there has been a fatal error in the operating system that it can't recover from. Or that's my understanding of it--I'm actually not all that great in the realm of fixing computers. But neither time was I doing anything out of the ordinary. I had not recently installed any new software or hardware. I was not downloading anything. I wasn't running anything strenuous. This time, I had Firefox open to Gmail, my calendar open, and was typing into a Matlab m-file.

Since the first kernel panic, I have had a few other issues that in other contexts I would have deemed unrelated. First Firefox crashed and wouldn't reopen because it thought it was still open already. Then the X11 terminal wouldn't stay open--it would open, then close, then open, then close etc. on a period of around 10 seconds. Then my computer was very laggy, where I would get the color wheel when I started typing an address into my internet browser or writing on a desktop "sticky note". Then Matlab wouldn't let me save a file because it thought for some reason that my Documents folder was read only.

My beef is that Macs aren't supposed to do this. Their advertising campaign boasts that Macs, unlike PCs, are always reliable and don't crash randomly. This is the first Mac I've owned, and I was expecting it to be worry free after my PCs. At present, my 6-month-old MacBook Pro has had more unexpected crashes than my 2-year-old PC laptop. And I do much harsher things to my gaming PC than to my work Mac. Fail. Suck it, Macs.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

D&D in jail and other old stuff, plus an award for DAO

So I got lazy with my occasional entertainment news posts. All but the last one of these tidbits are from a month ago, but I figured I'd include them anyway...

A federal appeals court upheld a ban at the Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin preventing inmates from playing Dungeons & Dragons (NY Times). Apparently, D&D can “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real-life correctional environment, fostering hostility, violence and escape behavior.” If this is true, then so can books, for heaven's sake. It's not like gaining the lock pick ability or hide in shadows or fireball for your character in D&D can actually give you the ability in real life. Maybe D&D games would promote groupings among inmates, but that happens anyway and I'd say that a gang of fantasy geeks isn't as bad as other possible prison gangs. Oh well, what do I know anyway?

Avatar officially passed Titanic in record worldwide box office take on January 25, after its sixth weekend at the box office (Variety). Since then it has also passed Titanic in domestic (US) gross. It is still going strong, ranking in the top five at the U.S. box office and number one overseas. Recent tallies place it at over $688 million in the U.S. and over $2.4 billion worldwide (inclusive of U.S.) (Variety).

In further Avatar news, a mountain in China's Hunan province has been renamed for Avatar (BBC news). According to the Xiaoxiang Morning News, a photographer from Hollywood had visited the Wulingyuan Scenic Area in 2008, and the photos had served as a basis for the planet Pandora--particularly for the floating Hallelujah Mountains. The Southern Sky Column mountain in Zhangjiajie has now officially been renamed the Avatar Hallelujah Mountain. Avatar is now the top movie of all time in China, and locals hope that renaming the mountain will allow them to capitalize on its popularity; they are currently promoting Avatar Tours with the slogan "Pandora is far but Zhangjiajie is near." Sweet.

Taylor Lautner has been cast as Stretch Armstrong in the planned Hasbro - Universal film that I'm kind of horrified is being made (Variety). I guess a different toy franchise had already claimed Channing Tatum. In case we've forgotten them, I'll list the other Hasbro movies that are in the works: Battleship, Monopoly, Candyland, Ouija, Clue, and Magic: The Gathering. Really.

OK, finally the news that I actually wanted to share, and it's just a little tidbit:
Dragon Age: Origins was named Role-Playing/Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year at the 13th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences--essentially, the Gaming Oscars (Variety: The Cut Scene). And it's well-deserved. I should mention that the big winner of the night was Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Batman: Arkham Asylum also did well (winning, among other things, Best Character Performance for its Joker, voiced by Mark Hamill). Anyway, I was pleased to see a prestigious award go to Dragon Age: Origins. But now I'm ready to move into 2010 and finally get Mass Effect 2 started.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I'm kind of a big deal (in Ferelden)

I finally beat Dragon Age: Origins last night! I was quite elated afterwards; beating an awesome game after spending dozens upon dozens of hours on it gives you a kind of high. Still, considering how late it was I couldn't bring myself to make a post until this morning. It's an awesome game. There are some big, tough choices that the game forces you to make near the end, none of which seem like the obvious "best" choice. None of the options made me entirely happy. I guess my choices were made somewhat easier, though, in that I had a romance with Alistair; if one's desire is to have a (somewhat) happy ending with Alistair, one's choices are constrained. So that's what I did--the only thing I felt I could do to keep us together. I didn't compromise too much in order to achieve that. Did I?

Anyway, DAO had engaging gameplay, a fascinating fantasy world, many enjoyable quests, interesting and lovable NPCs, and an exciting and challenging story. I loved it, and I would be eager to play through again with a different character...if I didn't have a shiny new Mass Effect 2 sitting here on my desk. *Sigh* So much to do.

A few screenshots to document the occasion.

Alistair got to do the cool animation killing the dragon Archdemon. The people in the background with yellow circles underneath them are, in order of increasing distance from the "camera", my PC, Leliana, and Wynne.

I was the one who got the real killing blow on the Archdemon. Here I am in a cut scene stabbing it through the skull. With a sword. I'm a mage--I don't think I've held a sword in my life. I'm probably not even strong enough to wield it. Ah well. Not the clearest screenshot, but I'd have to go through the long battle all over again for another go at it.

After the battle was over, this achievement popped up on my screen and made me laugh. Good times. With all of Ferelden cheering for me, I certainly felt like a big deal. Games can be great for ego boosts.

Friday, February 19, 2010

RPG Called Coding

Apologies for my scattered thoughts...

It's been a crazy week. The long weekend (we got Presidents Day off on Monday) only intensified my school workload, and on Wednesday my grandmother (who lives here in Honolulu) wound up in the hospital after her second stroke. It was a minor stroke, and she seems to be doing well, but she'll be spending more time in the hospital and eventually in rehab--stuff she went through last summer after her first stroke, which I'm sure is frustrating to her. I was supposed to drive her to a dentist appointment on Wednesday afternoon, which may have actually been linked to the stroke (the appointment, not my impending driving)--she had stopped taking her blood thinner for three days in preparation for the dentist. I guess that's how things can be when you're 88. Hopefully she'll have a speedy recovery.

Anyway, I meant this post to be about coding, not my grandmother. So here we go: I have three classes this semester, and they each give constant homework of different types: for Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I have to do reading (really detailed textbook reading so that I could reproduce derivations in class or analyze the physical meaning of equations in different ways); for Equations for Geophysics (aka "advanced math") I have to do problem sets with good old paper and pencil; and for Data Analysis I have to do coding in Matlab. Which of these assignments do you think I enjoy doing the most?

That's right: coding. The other assignments are painful. But the coding is actually kind of fun, to the point that I procrastinate on the other classwork by touching up my already working code. It's a good thing that I find coding fun because I have sentence myself to a career of computer programs. Coding is kind of exciting, since you start with a blank screen, puzzle your way through the problem, and wind up with colorful plots, or interesting numbers, or... some sort of reward to admire, at least.

I was recently discussing this topic with a coworker, and he pointed out that programming in Matlab is a bit like playing a computer game:

"My wife will call to ask me, 'Hey, when are you coming home?' but I'll tell her that I just can't leave until I finish this bit of code. It's like 'Wait, I just have to beat this level!'"

And I realized that's exactly what it is. I like coding because it's a bit like playing a computer game. Now, computer games are designed to be fun and entertaining, while data crunching generally isn't. Still, both gaming and coding have their frustrating moments. You can spend hours trying to get one thing to work just right (it doesn't happen very often, but there are a few game battles I could name that I have spent multiple hours trying to beat), and it can drive you crazy. But the satisfaction once you overcome the challenge is a great reward. Triumph is fun, and addicting.

My homework assignment for Data Analysis this week had three problems that I had to solve for four different water property time series (at five hundred different depths). Solving each of those three problems was like beating levels 1, 2, and 3. But I had developed my code using the temperature time series as the test data set; the code didn't work for the oxygen or chlorophyll data sets because those had periods of missing data (sensors didn't work or something). So then I had to modify the code to work for the series with missing data--levels 4, 5, and 6! It was hugely frustrating, incredibly annoying (I complained to at least four different people about it, individually), and yet...when I finally got it working, and those lovely graphs popped up with the oxygen data, I felt elated. I won! Take that, ye evil error messages!

I handed in the assignment only to be given a new one for next week. But I'm ready. I recruited two team members into my adventuring party (classmates I consulted with)--it's a multiplayer game, though I can't decide if I'm the tank or DPS. And in completing the last one, I gained experience, learned new skills, and even added some new bits of code to my inventory. Hopefully the game sequel will live up to the original.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day adventure

On Valentine's Day morning, after the Housemate had made me breakfast and presented me with a bunch of red roses and a huge box of Godivas (cliché, perhaps, but still sweet), we discussed what we wanted to do for the rest of the day until our dinner reservations. We decided we'd go snorkeling at Hanauma. Of course, by the time we got out of the house it was about 11:00, and I was concerned that we wouldn't be able to find parking at Hanauma Bay since it is such a popular and busy spot. Sure enough, as we reached the bay on the southeastern corner of the island, there was a sign saying the lot was full.

We agreed: let's keep going. There were more beaches up the East Shore past Hanauma. Not as good for snorkeling, but we could still go swimming. However, by the time we passed the third crowded beach not five minutes later, we reached a new decision: let's drive all the way around the island. Well, at least up to the North Shore and then back down the H2 (we had just driven all along the West Shore the previous weekend, so we could take the short cut inside of that coastline). Both of us had been up the East Shore as far as Kailua, and we had been to Kaneohe by cutting across the island from Honolulu, but neither of us had seen the part of the coast between Kailua and Kaneohe or between Kaneohe and Turtle Bay at the northern point on the island. It wouldn't be hard to navigate--just keep the ocean to our right. And it would be an adventure.

And so we spent the whole afternoon cruising around the island. We stopped for some fancy tropical smoothies in Kailua. Just outside downtown Kailua I saw a stand on the side of the road--much like you'd see a stand for fresh papayas or malasadas, or pickled mango or kalua pig--with a sign saying "Fresh Ukuleles". Mmm. I pointed out the funny stand to the Housemate, and he immediately turned around. He plays guitar and has been in the market for an ukulele since arriving here. The trouble is that the cheap ones are crappy and the good ones are expensive. These "fresh" ukulele were great--they were hand made on the island out of koa wood, sounded great, and weren't too expensive. He bought one. And so we got back on the road with ukulele and chord sheet in hand.

Of course, the Housemate was driving, so I was the one who got to sit in the passenger seat strumming on the ukulele as we continued around the island. The weather was beautiful. We stopped at two beaches along the way, but we didn't go swimming. It wasn't the most environmentally friendly adventure (took under half a tank of gas, though), but it was lovely.

Dinner at Roy's was delicious, and it was the Housemate's first experience in "fine dining" (i.e., when they give you a huge plate with a little pile of food in the middle that looks, especially with the colorful dashes of sauce, like artwork and tastes unique and exciting and delicious). Still, the car ride was the best part of the day. The Housemate driving with me strumming on the ukulele as we pass palm trees and picturesque coastline, windows down to let in the warm ocean breeze. A perfectly Hawaii Valentine's Day, and a moment worth remembering.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today I celebrate my first real Valentine's Day--the first Valentine's Day where I actually have a Valentine. It's kind of hard to believe that just last year I wrote a post lamenting my perpetually single status. Then I moved to Hawaii, and not two months later found a boyfriend with whom I have been in a happy relationship for over five months. I guess it turns out there wasn't anything wrong with me--at least not in that sense--making me incapable of being in a relationship. Things may not always be simple, but I am very happy at my current status.

I tried to make the Housemate jealous yesterday when a pink envelope with red hearts on it arrived in the mail for me. It was from my dad, of course--he always sends me a Valentine, which always includes a little quatrain along the lines of "Roses are red" that has to do with me. Sometimes the rhymes are a bit of a stretch, and they're usually pretty cheesy, but they're always sweet. This year's:
Heliconia are red,
Hanauma is blue.
You're way out in Hawaii
But I'm thinking of you!

For the Housemate, I bought a few nice photos of beautiful surfing waves that he can put up in his room or in his office at school. There are a number of photographers on the islands who like to take surfing and wave photos, and little gift-shoppy, arty galleries sell them. As a surfer, he always likes looking at pictures with perfect barrels. I tried my best to select ones he'd like.

I bought them on Friday afternoon, when he has a class that isn't supposed to get out until 5:15, though sometimes it gets out early. I figured as long as I was back by 5:00, I'd be clear without him knowing I was shopping. I spent a longer time than I expected picking out the photos (went into one shop three times--they probably thought I was nuts), and then the traffic was bad on the way back. In the car, I got a phone call from him at 5:50, and he left a message saying that he was out of class and coming home. I knew I had about 12 minutes to get back to the house. As I sat there at the light on the corner just before our street 11 minutes later, I started cursing at the light. "Damn you, light, change! It's my turn. My turn!" When it finally turned, I saw the Housemate turning the corner himself onto our street. Foiled! Just one minute sooner... So it won't surprise him that I got him something, but at least he was polite enough to go hide as I brought the packages into the house.

The Housemate and I have reservations at a fancy restaurant tonight. If we're lucky, we'll get a seat by the window that overlooks the ocean, but we probably won't. The restaurant is way out of our price bracket, but we don't splurge that often, so it's fine. The dinner is more expensive than on a normal night--the Valentine's Day special better be worth it. But I've been to the restaurant before (two summers ago), so I know the food is good. Especially the heavenly chocolate souffle...

Today is a special day, and I'm looking forward to it. And, of course, I'm looking forward to what the Housemate will surprise me with.

Hope you all enjoy your Valentine's Day, whether or not you have a Valentine.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

When is love?

It has been five months and three days since the Housemate first kissed me (well, first reached his hand under my shirt--the kiss came a bit later). Not three weeks after that, he whispered "I love you", but it was way too early for that and such words were buried and forgotten for months after that incident. Recently, though, I have been revisiting those words, playing with them in my mind. Do they really apply? Should I tell him? How should I tell him? When?

I used to think that saying "I love you" was simple. I mean, I'd seen tons of movies and TV shows where characters would torture themselves over whether or not they could say those words to the ones they loved. But it always seemed so ridiculous--they were obviously in love, obviously made for each other, perfect for each other...Why couldn't they just say the words?! Besides, if the girlfriend/boyfriend (usually the girlfriend, though) wanted them to say "I love you" so much, why not just say it? "Love" is just a word! It's not that strong.

In a twisted sort of a way, though, now that I am at this point in a relationship, my experiences watching these characters struggle with the three little words have made me cautious in saying the words myself. Without those outside influences, I probably would have thought nothing of saying "I love you." But now I have this sense that saying "I love you" is supposed to be hard. It's a passionate, momentous, climactic occasion, spoken in the rain, or after barely escaping disaster. When you say it, you have to really, truly mean it, with all your heart, and there's no taking it back. It's like selling your soul.

So maybe I'm exaggerating a bit there. I don't want to lie, so I do think I should say "I love you" only if I mean it. But how do I know if I mean it if I don't know what it means? The chick flicks have all confused me. There's love and then there's love, right? I love my family and my pets and my close friends. In that sense, I have loved the Housemate for a while. I care deeply about him, I value his presence in my life, I would be torn if we never saw each other again. He's great, he's fun--I love him.

But then there's love. What is that? He makes me happy when he's around, unless he's feeling glum in which case I'm glum. I like cuddling with him. I crave his touch. I can spend all day with him for days in a row and not get sick of him. It's worth giving up computer game time to spend time with him. But what about the other things movies have taught me are important parts of love? I may have felt butterflies that first night when he reached his hand down my shirt, but none since then. I've never felt "head-over-heels" for him. Where's the heat wave burning in my heart? Where is the deep passion? Where is the unbearable elation? The insanity? Where are these things that the movies all promised me?

What are the necessary symptoms? What is love supposed to feel like? How do I know when I really, truly love him? If it's one of those things I'm just supposed to know, what if I tend towards caution, always doubting. I think I may love him, except for these doubts. But if it isn't true love, if after five months I still don't love him, what would that mean? I know I'm probably overthinking this--I always overthink things. But if it's love, it's important. Right?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yokohama Bay

So far I have shared photos from O'ahu's famous North Shore (all the big wave photos) and South Shore (which includes Waikiki) and its not quite as famous but still famous East Shore. But up until about a week and a half ago, I had never been to the West Shore. I guess I had been to Kaena Point, the westernmost point on the island, but it is also the "corner" between the North Shore and the West Shore, and since I approached it from the North Shore side, that doesn't count.

The Housemate and I took a trip to the West Shore last week Sunday so he could find a good surf spot and I could lie on the beach and call family and friends (a good way to make them jealous). However, since the Housemate was unfamiliar with West Shore surf spots, the search for a suitable beach took us a long time. Some of the beaches on the West Shore have these sort of tent villages of homeless people, and a few have reputations for being inhospitable to non-locals. Most of it seems fine, though, kind of unspectacular coastline with a road that runs between the beach parks and modest residential areas, strip malls, and fast food chains. But one stop we made while searching for a surf spot deserves a little description.

So we've turned off the highway into an industrial park. Large buildings, warehouses, smokestacks are all around us. We pull off to a dead end road. On our right is a junkyard - some large excavators move around piles of rusted metal and heaps of rubber. Not the picturesque kind of spot from which I could call my friends and make them jealous.

"Oops, I think I took a wrong turn," says the Housemate.
Thank God, I think.

We turn around, take a left at the first intersection, and drive down the road until a small beach park appears on the left. "Here it is." We pull into the parking lot and get out. We are now simply on the other side of the junkyard--but this time, downwind, so we can smell the burning rubber.

"No," I say. "No."
"Uh, don't worry, we're not gonna stay here, I just want to check out the waves, and then we can leave."
"Come on, I just have to see the waves, so I'll know for next time. We won't stay"

We march on down to the beach. From there, he can't see around the point to the good surfing wave, so he has to walk down the beach to the point. He finally comes back, and we walk back to the car in silence, me with the most withering frown I can manage, emitting beams of misery in his general direction. What he didn't understand was that we did stay--the 15 minutes it took him to check out the waves was 15 minutes longer than I wanted to be there.

Anyway, after a few other stops and a lot of driving, we finally made it to the end of the line, the last beach before the road ends south of Kaena Point: Yokohama Bay. Because Kaena Point is a state park, the only buildings in sight were an observatory up on the ridge and the restrooms. The beach was beautiful.

All of my good photos of Yokohama came from the second trip we made there last Saturday because that time 1) we went at sunrise so the light was beautiful and 2) there were very few people around, 3) I was using the Housemate's camera instead of my old semi-broken one, and 4) we spent some time at a beautiful tide pool. I took so many photos, but here are some of the best...
(Click on them for a larger version...especially the panorama.)

Here's what it looked like when we first arrived.

We saw the beautiful tide pool down on the beach. Not a great photo but it gives you the context of the pool. This shot also has this sort of rocky ledge in the water (on the right) that would be revealed when the waves pulled back. I wish I got a better photo of that ledge itself.

Scoping out the tide pool.

When it was calm, the pool was like a mirror. I think this is my favorite of the bunch.

The sun rises over the ridge behind us to touch the algae on the rocks between the pool and the ocean. The algae was quite fuzzy and soft on the feet, not slimy at all.

Panorama with the sun coming over the ridge.

We left the tide pool to go to the part of the beach with good surfing. Here's the Housemate paddling out. What I like is how the clear face of the wave is like a window down to the rocks beneath the surface.

Once the Housemate came back in from surfing I was hot and wanted to go swimming. So we went back to the pool. It's pretty in the sunlight, too.

Water trickling over the rocks into the tide pool.

Water rushing over the rocks into the tide pool.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


As long as I can remember, I have cried very easily from frustration and embarrassment. It is a very frustrating and embarrassing thing not to be able to keep yourself from crying, so that of course compounds the problem, often transforming a single teardrop into a flood from multiple orifices. When I was in the pre-school/kindergarten/first grade range, my mom would have to warn my teachers that I was "sensitive". I have distinct memories of crying in class from those years--because I couldn't properly do the hand movements to a song we were singing, because I couldn't draw a dragon the way I saw it in my head, because I couldn't think of anything to draw for a nonsense poem...

As I have aged, I have gotten better at controlling myself. Still, there were a couple times in middle school when the tears started welling up--like when a teacher cut me off and bluntly told me I was wrong, when really he just hadn't understood what I was saying--and even a couple times in high school, when I had to ask a teacher for an extension (crying really does help get that extension, but it was never my intention to cry when I went in there). There was one time when I was working last year that I was in an extended debate with the professor I was doing research for, arguing that the technique she was telling me to use was invalid, and I got so frustrated that tears started gathering in my eyes. She noticed and quickly said, "How about we come back to this later?" and retreated to her office. Fine.

I just got back from a meeting with the professor of one of my classes. He had said that he wanted to meet with each of us individually but hadn't mentioned what about. I wasn't sure what to expect. When I got there, he went over my answers to the pop quiz he had given us (yes, he gave a pop quiz in grad school, though he just called it an "experiment" and it's not graded). Then he probed, oral examination style (sounds like dentistry), to see how much I understood about various parts of an equation I had produced on the quiz. It was a little painful, but if I didn't know something, he'd give me a hint until I ultimately arrived at the right place.

The meeting was supposed to be 15 minutes, but it was getting close to half an hour now. Still, it wasn't too bad. Then, through some sort of misunderstanding, I said something to which he reacted very badly: "Whoa, hey, what now?!"--essentially communicating that what I said was wrong and also ridiculous. A bit of a humiliation-slap in the face. Luckily, at that moment someone knocked on the door to ask him a question, and once that person left the professor went back to the explanation he had been giving before my "outrageous" comment. I thought I was in the clear. Then he went back to it. "So, what did you mean when you said that before?" So not only was I embarrassed that I had said something totally wrong and ridiculous, but now I had the added frustration and humiliation of having to explain my obviously wrong statement to the professor. Cue the tears.

I wasn't sure what his reaction would be. I managed to choke my way through an explanation. What I had said, it turns out, was not outrageous, it just wasn't relevant in the argument he had been making. But that didn't matter--it was already too late for the tears. But he just kept on talking, and it wasn't until about three minutes later when he was ready to let me go (finally) that he looked at me, confused and with a slight smile, "Are you upset?"

No, thanks, I've just been wiping tears and snot on my sleeve for the last three minutes. I tell him I'm fine, take the tissue he offers and quickly make my exit. Thing is, he probably has no idea why I was crying since (it seems) it took him a long time to notice.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what he said that made me cry. In my experience as a "sensitive" person, it never matters because it's always my fault. The professor didn't offend me--it's not like he had called me smelly and ugly. I wasn't particularly angry at him or sad for myself. I was frustrated. And, like so many times before, I allowed my frustration to turn to tears. Sometimes it happens, and I just don't know how to stop it. I don't care what he did or didn't say. What I was upset about was my lack of control. I'm not a kid anymore. So why am I still a crybaby?

On a cheerier note, I have some lovely new Hawaii photos to share coming up later this week. Plus, barring any major disaster, this Sunday I will celebrate my very first Valentine's Day with an actual boyfriend. What a thought.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Other stuff for 2/2/10

Other stuff regarding today:

Today is Groundhog Day, the day we yank a rodent out of its hole early in the morning to make it stare at the ground. How do they know if the rodent "sees" its shadow, anyway? Just because its shadow is there doesn't mean it sees it. I've never put much stock in the prognosticating powers of the groundhog, but this year it is especially irrelevant to me. Here in Hawaii, winter and spring all look pretty much the same. (Though I guess it has be raining--actually raining, not just heavily misting with the sun still shining as is common--all day--not just for 10 minutes as it more often does. I suppose this qualifies as a bona fide winter day in Honolulu). For the record, Punxutawney Phil did see his shadow this morning, indicating 6 more weeks of winter.

On another note, today is the premiere of the final season of Lost! The series has had a couple low points, but overall it has been an exhilarating, mind-bending, suspenseful, moving, addicting, revolutionary show. I love it. I will miss it once it's over, but I am excited to see how they conclude their story. Some people may be worried that they'll mess it all up, but I'm not concerned (yet...). Ever since they set the end date, they've been moving towards the finale with skill, purpose, and overall great storytelling. Here's hoping for an awesome final season. And I'll be keeping my eye out for shooting locations here on O'ahu.

Academy Awards 2010 Nominations!

The Season of Giving need not be over yet. Isn't it time for us to give to those who have so much already? It's time for the Oscars!

The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning. The Hurt Locker and Avatar lead the pack with 9 nominations each. They're up against each other for best picture, director, cinematography, editing, sound mixing, sound editing, and original score. Avatar was also nominated for best visual effects (naturally) and art direction, while The Hurt Locker also received nods for best actor (Jeremy Renner) and original screenplay.

For the first time since 1943, the Best Picture category has ten nominees. The other nominees for best picture are The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, A Serious Man, Up, and Up in the Air (hmm, could be awkward if one of those last two wins, like when two actors with the same first name are nominated and the loser starts to stand up before the name is finished being read...). These mirror the Producers Guild's 10 nominees with two exceptions: Invictus and Star Trek were traded out for The Blind Side and A Serious Man. At this point I have seen half of the Best Picture nominees: Up, District 9, Avatar, Inglourius Basterds, and An Education. Of those, I'm rooting for District 9, though I'm also dying to see Hurt Locker and Up in the Air. I hear Precious is good too, but I think it's too depressing for me to be rushing out to see it.

The best director nominees represent a selection of the best picture noms. In addition to Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker and (her ex-husband) James Cameron for Avatar, the nominees are Lee Daniels for Precious, Jason Reitman for Up in the Air, and Quentin Tarantino for Basterds. Cameron previously won best director for Titanic, and Reitman and Tarantino have both been nominated in the category before for Juno and Pulp Fiction, respectively. The two newcomers to the category are rare specimens: Bigelow is only the fourth woman to be nominated in the category, and Daniels is only the second black man to be nominated (none of the previous minority nominees have won in either case).

I am very pleased with District 9's success. In addition to best pic, District 9 was nominated for best adapted screenplay, editing, and visual effects. Between it and Avatar, sci-fi made a good showing this year, though no acting nominations were received by either.

Up is only the second animated film to be nominated in the Best Picture category, after 1991's Beauty and the Beast, and is the first CGI film to receive a nomination (though Avatar is sort of half CGI...). Up was also nominated in the Best Animated Film category, where its chances of winning are better.

My biggest (pleasant) surprise of all the nominations? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was nominated along with Hurt Locker, Avatar, Basterds, and acclaimed German Foreign Language nominee The White Ribbon (aka Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte, aka the movie with the title even longer than Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire) for best cinematography. I thought it was a great movie, but I had totally forgotten about it in terms of possible Oscar nominations. Good for Harry.

As usual, the only category for which I have seen all the nominees is Best Visual Effects: Avatar, Star Trek, and District 9. As much as I loved Star Trek and District 9, the award just has to go to Avatar. Star Trek was very smooth, and District 9 was extremely impressive considering the budget, but much like Spider-Man and Attack of the Clones up against Two Towers' Gollum, what can you do? Maybe there will be some huge upset, but seeing how revolutionary Avatar is in terms of visual effects, it's almost like the others were nominated merely as a formality.

See the full list of nominees here.

Well, I'm excited about Oscar season, and hopefully I'll get to see a few more contenders before the ceremony. Winners will be announced on Sunday, March 7; the telecast starts at 5pm West Coast time on ABC.