Saturday, May 29, 2010

Geek Girls Unite! blog award

I know I just posted about my first blog award, but I've actually just been given a second blog award. It's the Geek Girls Unite award from RAY J at Point Me to the Sky Above, an awesome geek girl who I only recently discovered as she was doing a giveaway on her blog to celebrate five years of World of Warcraft playing (a real veteran!). As a proud geek girl, I am very honored! The award was just created by Angela of High on Life, another geek girl I recently found--see, we geek girls are uniting!

And here are the rules:
List ten geeky facts about yourself and...
Pass this award onto your favorite female geeks!

Now my geeky facts. Some of these I've talked about on my blog before (one of my blog's themes is celebrating my geekiness, after all) but some are new little geeky gems!

1. I didn't start loving to read until I read Brian Jacques' Redwall series about woodland animals who (mostly) live in an abbey and take up swords and slings and bows and arrows when their peace is threatened by cruel invaders. It was my invaluable introduction to fantasy.
2. I've always enjoyed math and science. Now I'm working towards a PhD in physical oceanography (i.e., the physics of the ocean). Field work is all well and good, but what I really like is modeling--and I don't mean strutting down the runway. Computer programming is fun!
3. I can speak a little bit of Quenya (one of Tolkien's Elvish languages). Not much, but more than just direct quotes from Lord of the Rings; I know some grammar and a small vocabulary and can make my own sentences. What's more, I learned it for a self-tailored high school project which culminated in a presentation to my class. (All the gory details can be found here.) And I can write in the tengwar script.
4. Of course, my high school classmates already knew I was a geek. I was the president of my high school's Fantasy Reader's Guild. I even got our guild's picture in the local newspaper as we stood in line, in costume, waiting to see Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
5. I love musicals and I love memorizing songs from musicals. I can sing from memory all or most of the songs from Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Into the Woods, Wicked, Avenue Q, Guys and Dolls...
6. I'm a huge fan of Firefly, among many other sci-fi- and fantasy-related TV shows. In college, I got a bunch of friends hooked on Firefly, and when we watched the movie Serenity, I threw a theme party with Chinese food, ice-planets, and costumes. (I did a post on that one here.)
7. In my Ivy League civil engineering course called Mechanics of Solids, I did my term paper on The Bridge of Khazad-dûm: A structural analysis of a bridge of Dwarven engineering (that is, the bridge that Gandalf and the fiery Balrog fall off of in LotR). I got an A+. (Find the full story here.)
8. Up until I was 24 years old, the only boyfriends I'd ever had were non-player characters in my computer games: Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2, Knights of the Old Republic, and Mass Effect. (Get the juicy details here.)
9. Once I did get boyfriend, I proceeded to geekify him. So far we've covered Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Horrible, Fringe, and The Guild, and our current projects are Big Bang Theory and Pushing Daisies.
10. Last but not least, what has been until now a closely guarded secret: When I was in 9th grade, I was in a youth bowling league. Not geeky enough? We named our team the Rolling Voltorbs. Yes, a voltorb is a Pokémon. Shaped like a ball. We were clever.

Now, I bestow this noble award upon these lovely geek girls:

Hezabelle - A Canadian studying towards a master's degree in the U.K. and enjoying her travels in Europe, she knows a lot about Greek history and mythology. She's also the only other girl I know who says she knows a tiny bit of Elvish.

Holly of Sorcery and Glue - Another girl who shares my love of BioWare games, she makes awesome costumes related to her favorite geeky things. Current projects: Mass Effect N7 armor and a Grunt costume with animatronic head!

Megan of Hollywood Jane - A fantasy and sci-fi fan and Joss Whedon lover trying to make it as a writer in L.A. She has a funny web series called "Quest for Comic-Con."

Geek Girl Diva - She keeps us geek girls updated on news to make us squee and geeky merchandise to make us drool.

My first blog award!

So it's taken me a while to post about it, but last month I got my first blog award, the Sunshine blog award from Kara at Crayons and Cylons! I only discovered her blog relatively recently, but it was clear from the start that we share a lot of similar geeky interests--Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, and the like.

As part of the award, I'm supposed to pass it on to twelve other bloggers--kind of chain letter-like. My attempt to come up with twelve bloggers to give it to has made it clear to me that I need to follow more blogs, because twelve is, well, most of my blogger friends. I have come to the conclusion that if I were to choose twelve winners, that would leave out just a few of my other lovely blogger buddies, which would be sad. So I'm cutting the number of awardees to six. It's my blog. I can do that. So here I am, passing the Sunshine Award on to some lovely bloggers who add sunshine to my day.

The Rules:
1. Put the logo on your blog within your post.
2. Pass the award on to twelve bloggers.
3. Link to the nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and the link to the person from whom you received this award.
***I will say, though, that my recipients should feel no obligation to pass this on to twelve--or any number--of other bloggers. I have no expectations :)

And the winners are:

Andhari of Insomniac Lolita - An Indonesian rapper and law student, she blogs about her exciting life and other fun things.

Floreta of Solitary Panda - A poet who on her road to find herself has recently been staying at a Buddhist monastery.

Pink Jellybaby - A beautiful Brit with a cat named Liz Lemon, she's a sweetie who sometimes gives us a little sauce on Fridays.

Sam of Things, Just Things - A cool, happy girl who recently went on a road trip to New Orleans.

Seb - A great geek who takes lovely pictures and writes thought-provoking pieces that I love to argue with, but only because I respect him.

Soft Nonsense - A funny, geeky guy who caught my eye by eating half of a pretzel so that the remainder looked like a bat'leth.

Thanks, Kara, for spreading a little sunshine. I should note that (Spoiler alert!) I have another round of winners for a second blog award coming up later today...

Friday, May 28, 2010

We have mangoes!

After a couple days of slightly more meaty posts, I figured I'd do a more, uh, fruity post today.

We have a mango tree at our house. Unfortunately, at the time we moved in last summer, it only had three tiny mangoes (three inches long--max) on it. Other mango trees around town were still going strong, so we figured we just had a bad tree. It is relatively small, and it's on a slope. Maybe it didn't get enough water? We resigned ourselves to having no mangoes.

But now, we have lots of mangoes! Not as many as the good mango trees have, but a lot more than I expected. I see breakfast! And smoothies! The Housemate has this amazing recipe from his Indonesian stepfamily for a dish called sepat that uses green mangoes (as well as grilled shrimp, eggplant, tomatoes, and candlenuts, plus lime, chili peppers of course, and lots of other yummy things--this is our favorite dish), so we even have something great to eat with the mangoes while we wait for them to ripen. Lots of free mangoes! It's wonderful.

I don't know how long the mangoes will last, but I'm ready to make the most of them while we have them. Yay!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Prince of Persia: Can video game movies be good?

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens in the U.S. this Friday. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace), Ben Kingsley, and Alfred Molina, and directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter 4), the movie is based on the video game of the same name in which a prince must save the world with the help of a dagger that can send its user back a short period of time.

I have never played the Prince of Persia games, but still I have a considerable interest in how the film turned out. As I discussed in one of my earliest posts on this blog, not a single theater-released movie based on a video game has been widely considered to be any good.
My post on movies based on video games
The video game movie with the highest IMDb user rating is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, with a weak 6.4. And the only thing about the movie that is based on a video game is the title! But, apparently, all other video game movies are worse. In that previous post, I wondered when, if ever, we'd get the first good video game movie--when we'd finally get a movie to validate (and justify) the genre and stop disgracing us video game fans in the eyes of the general public.

Could Prince of Persia be this movie?

A review at Variety said that the movie was enjoyable enough, but forgettable. Lisa Schwarzbaum gave it a lukewarm to favorable review at EW, summing it up with a respectable grade of B. The film has already been released in some markets abroad (in countries where lots of people watch the World Cup, studios want to release their films early to avoid the competition), so it already has (as of 4pm Hawaii time 5/26/10) 3916 votes on IMDb. The user rating currently stands at 6.8 stars, which is a bit above FF: The Spirits Within, but a movie's IMDb rating tends to fall considerably after initial high ratings from the fans who saw it opening weekend. Still, the 6.8 may not be fairly considered an initial high rating because the film hasn't even been released in the U.S., its largest market. So really, it's still too early to tell if Prince of Persia will be considered the first good video game movie, or if it will join all the others in the genre junk pile.

The issue of whether or not movies based on video games can be good is especially relevant to me at the moment, since it has now been officially announced that one of my favorite video games, BioWare's Mass Effect, is being developed into a movie by Avi Arad and Legendary Pictures (BioWare forum announcement, more details at Heat Vision blog). Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend, Thor) is in talks to write the movie script.

I had a lot to say about the prospect of a Mass Effect movie back when I first heard the rumors of the project.
My post on Mass Effect as a movie
I'm not sure I'd say all the same things I said back then, but my main ideas hold. Mass Effect is already pretty movie-like, but it gives the player the freedom to make choices about who the main character is and what decisions he or she makes that influence the progression of the plot (and the galaxy). How will I feel with a movie, where all of those choices are made for me (and surely for most players they will make a number of "wrong" choices)? And, if the movie is bad, will it degrade the image of the video game? Of all video games? (This is based on my fear that movies based on less-well-known media are the general public's ambassador to that media. So, if a prime example of some niche media genre--be it video game, graphic novel, or fantasy book--is translated into a trashy movie, it might make the entire genre represented by that movie look bad.)

Now Mass Effect 2 has come out, and it's even better than the first game. That's a good sign, but it brings with it new worries. Are they planning on doing a trilogy? Can they keep it fresh and interesting for three whole movies (I mean, if no movie based on a video game has ever been good before, what are the chances of them striking gold three times)? How unfortunate would it be if they make the first film and it doesn't do well enough to make the second, better game into a movie?

Anyway, as a video game lover and movie enthusiast, I definitely hope some day to see a movie based on a video game turn out to be good. Or great (but let's not be too hopeful). Prince of Persia, I wish you well.

Update: My follow-up post after seeing the movie on its opening weekend is here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Goodbye to Lost

No spoilers (and not just for the finale, but any episode of Lost) except for the section between the warnings.

Whoa. Lost is over. It feels...strange.

I can safely say that Lost is the TV show that I've been the most invested in for the longest period of time. It's had its ups and downs, its hits and misses, but I've been a fan all along. I even followed some of its "alternate reality" material (the Lost Experience) one summer (I actually stuck with that Simon-like game to figure out what DHARMA stands for) before I decided that, well, it wasn't really worth it--the show was perfectly enjoyable without it.

I sometimes forget, but I didn't actually follow the show until its second season. I think I watched the pilot when it started in the fall of 2004, but this was during my first two years in college when I didn't follow any TV shows (hard to believe I once did that, now). By the summer after the first season I had figured out that this was a show I should be following, and a chance encounter with Daniel Dae Kim (Jin) gave me further star-struck reason to start watching. I bought the Season 1 DVDs, and by the start of Season 2 I was all caught up. I then proceeded to get my roommate hooked on the show. She was caught up by Season 3, which we watched together.

That year I bought the DVDs, I think I watched every episode in Season 1 at least four times; I could list them all by name in order and had a very good sense of the events and flashbacks in each episode. I also co-founded a facebook group at my school (ah, back when Facebook wasn't a giant monster, when you had to be in one of the listed colleges to join and Facebook groups were a new thing and were limited to people in your own school...) which enjoyed relative success in its first year (until Facebook groups went "global" and all school-specific fan clubs became dwarfed and outdated). This was the golden age of Lost's popularity, when even non-geeks were fans, and you had to watch it the night that it aired or you'd overhear people discussing it the next morning and the surprises would all be ruined.

The show got a little lost in its second and third seasons (though I never gave up hope), but once they set an end date--three more seasons with 16 episodes each (with maybe a little flexibility)--in the spring of 2007, Lost found its direction again. It seemed that every episode had purpose, with important character and plot developments packed into it. In Season 4, they really let out the geeky sci-fi side of Lost, alienating some (lesser) fans, though show runners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof said that if any fans didn't think the show was sci-fi all along, they were kidding themselves.

When they set the end date during the third season, it seemed like a lot of time. The show, after all, was only half over at the time. Somehow, three years have passed. It may be hard for me to believe it, but the epic tale of Lost is finally over. Spoiler section ends after the picture, so skip down there for my spoiler-free final thoughts.


Since the finale aired on Sunday, there has been a lot of discussion over whether it was good or bad. A lot of people, it seems, are disappointed about the questions that the show never answered. They had three years to tie it all up! And they never told us why ____?! I bet they never knew the answer. That's bad show-making right there!

There are indeed things that it would have been nice for them to tell us (to name a few: What was special about Walt? Why did Aaron have to be raised by Claire? It didn't seem so disastrous when Kate was doing it. And why can't women have babies on the Island?). I think it was sloppy for them to bring these questions up, make a big deal out of them, and then forget about them. But somehow, I'm OK with it. For now, at least, I can forget about those questions, too. Their answers are not required for me to be happy with the show. At the moment I'm satisfied with all the mysteries they did solve for us.

I was a little disappointed by the way they ended the "flash-sideways" story. They had set it up as a sort of alternate reality where the bomb had gone off in 1977, the Island had been destroyed, and thus the lives of the passengers on Oceanic 815 were never touched by the Island's craziness. I guess with everything we learned about the Island in Season 6, a hydrogen bomb may not have been able to wipe away the issues that the Island had, but still... I liked the idea of this alternate reality. When Juliet said, in her last dying breath, that "It worked," I assumed she meant that the bomb plan had worked and that, in the new alternate reality, none of them would come to the Island. Even though that reality existed, they still had to keep playing through their own reality, which was also real. I don't know where I thought this would lead (War between the two alternate realities! No, wait, that's J.J. Abrams' other show...), but I hoped that the Lost show runners had a good idea.

But it turns out the sideways world wasn't real. It was just a fantasy in which all of our favorite characters, who touched each other's lives in such monumental ways, could find each other in the afterlife and have a big get-together before moving on. It was very sweet and touching, and I liked the sentiment, but, well... Why would this fantasy created by the people brought together by the Island take a form that looks so much like how their lives might have been if the Island had been destroyed in 1977? The only reason I can think of is, so that it would trick viewers into thinking it was an alternate reality. And that makes me a little sad. If anyone has a better reason, please share.

On Island, though, I was very happy with the way they ended it. I'm still sad that both Jin and Sun died a couple episodes back (what about their daughter?!), but other than that, I liked how they tied up the characters. Jack--and Kate!--take down Smokey. Jack sacrifices himself, and passes the guardian role on to Hurley (I believe in you, Hurley--*sniff*). Ben becomes Hurley's new second. Lapidus is alive! And the plane has a runway! And he takes Richard (no longer ageless), Miles, Kate, Sawyer, and Claire off the Island (see, Desmond was right, if Charlie died Claire would get off the Island...eventually). Now Claire gets to raise Aaron and wash her hair. Rose and Bernard live out their days happily on the Island, with Vincent (Hurley should make Vincent ageless--he's a nice companion to have around). Desmond hopefully, with Hurley's help, gets off the Island. And then the last scene, mirroring the very first scene in the pilot: Jack lying in the bamboo, visited by Vincent, then the closeup of his eye closing...It was beautiful. I couldn't have asked for more.


So I have slightly mixed feelings about the Lost finale, but overall I thought it was great. It was a fitting ending to an awesome show. Lost's place is firmly cemented on my list of favorite shows of all time. It was an important show both in my life and in the world of TV. It helped make sci-fi cool and start a movement in new TV shows (mythology-heavy, serialized, sci-fi related shows), which unfortunately hasn't really spawned many successful successors but is still appreciated nonetheless.

I will miss the show, but strangely not as much as I've missed other favorite shows of mine that have ended. I guess, in the case of Lost, I feel like it was time. They told their story, and now it's over. It was great while it lasted, and I am happy with the experience. It was one hell of a ride.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Geek Pride Day!

Apparently, today is Geek Pride Day, a day for geeks to celebrate their geekiness. It is a fairly new unofficial holiday, first celebrated in 2006. The date of May 25th was chosen because it was the day in 1977 when (as Star Wars geeks know) the first Star Wars movie was released.

I didn't actually know about Geek Pride Day until I got to work. Luckily I am a proud geek every day, so today I happen to be wearing an appropriately geeky t-shirt. The dragon on the side isn't just any dragon, but the dragon logo for BioWare video game Dragon Age: Origins.

Anyone recognize the board in the background? Since finals I haven't had reason to use the board again, and I like to leave the equations up there to scare away the biological and chemical oceanographers who might wander into my office. They should fear us physical oceanographers. We are mighty.

There was a very monumental event recently in geek world, and by that I'm referring to the Lost series finale that aired on Sunday. I will have some words to say about that soon enough, but I may want to combine it with reflections on the season finales of a few other shows, so I might wait until after FlashForward has its finale. Or maybe I'll decide Lost should get its own post. We'll see.

Now I'll just have to think of something geeky to do this evening. Play more Portal? Watch The Guild? Big Bang Theory? (I'm trying to get The Housemate caught up on both.) It shouldn't be a stretch for me to find a geeky way to celebrate the day. If you're reading my blog, chances are you are also a geek in one way or another. So happy Geek Pride Day! Have a good one.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Seriously... get Portal

So I already mentioned in a previous post that until May 24 Steam is giving away free downloads of the award-winning game Portal, for Mac or PC, here:

But now I've actually played it myself. It is awesome. So, so awesome. Extremely unique, amazingly clever, very funny, and enormously fun. My favorite thing to do: use high downward momentum (from falling from a high place) into a portal on the floor to come shooting at high horizontal speed out of another portal on the wall (momentum is conserved relative to the portal) to get across chasms or over obstacles. Great fun.

It's a pretty short game--one could finish it in an afternoon and evening. Short but sweet. So if you're worried about wasting too much time playing a game, don't worry about this one. If you think it sounds too short to be worth it, remember that it's FREE. Seriously. How could it not be worth the price of nothing? Get the game! The free offer runs out on May 24. That's this Monday. Get it now.

There will be cake.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Housemate to Antarctica

This weekend, on exciting personal news: The Housemate is going to Antarctica.

The plan is for him to head down there in November and stay for three months. Yes, my boyfriend will be living in Antarctica for three months!

I suppose this is one of the advantages of being an oceanographer. Not many people get the opportunity to travel to Antarctica in their lifetime (maybe not many people want to go--I hear it can be cold), but the percentage of oceanographers traveling to Antarctica is relatively high compared to the general public. Not all oceanographers get to go to Antarctica, of course, but a good number do at some point in their careers, though I imagine it usually isn't for a whole three months, and it's usually not in their second year of grad school.

So my boyfriend is going to be far away for three months. I should be worried about missing him. But really, all I am right now is insanely jealous. Antarctica! Living there! For three months! Come on! So frakking jealous! I mean, how awesome a blog would that be?

xkcd was way ahead of me here...

I should be the one going to Antarctica! The Housemate is a surfer, he'll be miserable spending three whole months in a place like Antarctica. I'm a gamer. I would be perfectly happy holed up in some research facility; as long as there's an electrical outlet, I'm happy. Man, I need to get a project in Antarctica. I'm sure there's got to be some interesting physical-biological interactions going on there for me to study. Revising my intended PhD research immediately...

*Sigh.* Here are some pretty photos of Antarctica. Not mine, of course, because I'M NOT FRAKKING GOING TO ANTARCTICA.

Frakking penguins on a frakking iceberg.

Frakking sea ice in the Antarctic winter.

Frakking perfectly calm water with frakking perfect iceberg.

Frakking awesome clouds.

Photos are from the blog UH Manoa Studying Climate Change in Antarctica. Check it out to see more photos. It's really cool. I'm also jealous of them.

I really need to get that scuba certification and start doing scientific dives around pristine coral reefs already. That might make me feel better.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blog design updates and newses

Unless you're new to my blog, you may have noticed a few design changes recently. I figured it was time I update my blog decorations with images from new games.

In case there was any doubt, the images in my Life header and Seven Ages of Man sidebar were all thoughtfully chosen before being painstakingly screen shot by yours truly. When I first put them up, I did a post explaining their significance, but that was back before anyone actually read my blog, so my explanation was a bit more self-indulgent and long-winded than necessary. Plus, the post is now out of date.

The RPG Called Life header
These are RPG screen shots that I, for one reason or another, associate with Life. From left to right:
In Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard catches Miranda, just barely saving her life.
In Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, the PC replenishes her life with a heal potion.
In Diablo II, the full red life globe indicates the player is fully healthy and alive.
In Mass Effect, the new PC's paragon and renegade bars are empty, waiting to fill according to the choices she will make in her life.
In Baldur's Gate II, the party confronts Irenicus at the Tree of Life in Suldanessellar.
In Dragon Age: Origins, the PC kills the Archdemon, restoring hope for all life in Ferelden.

The Seven Ages of Man sidebar
As You Like It may not be one of Shakespeare's most famous titles, but it has a very famous monologue in it, beginning with the lines "All the world's a stage/And all the men and women merely players" then detailing what is sometimes referred to as the seven ages of man. If you don't know it, look it up. So who will represent each of these seven ages?
The infant: a baby Child of Bhaal from Baldur's Gate II. (This is my favorite of all the pictures. How creepy is that baby?)
The school-boy: Connor Guerrin, son of Arl Eamon Guerrin of Redcliffe in Dragon Age: Origins. The screen shot is from after the demon who possessed him has been vanquished, so he really is pure boy, not abomination anymore.
The lover: Kelly from the Normandy in Mass Effect 2. I haven't done her romance, but she is a very loving person, loving males, females, humans, and alien species all. What better lover is there to have on my list?
The soldier: Chief Ashley Williams from Mass Effect, a soldier for the Alliance and a soldier by "class".
The justice: Master Vrook of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. A wise Jedi master, he's around in both KotOR I and II, plus he's voiced by Ed Asner.
The pantaloon: Old Deckard Cain from Diablo II, of course. Stay awhile and listen.
Oblivion: Myrkul, dead former god of the dead in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer.

Now that I've done the full disclosure on my blog decorations, how about a couple entertainment news items?

First, Megan Fox will not be in Transformers 3. There has been some discrepancy as to whether this is because of her insults to director Michael Bay, or if the writers just wanted to go somewhere else with the story, or if she was the one who stepped out of the project. I don't particularly care, really. I can't say I'll miss her in it; she was never what made the good parts good, anyway. I do know a few teenage boys, however, who feel differently. In any case, I loved the first movie but was really disappointed by the second, so I hope they can turn it around and make the third one enjoyable again. Other interesting actors have signed on for the three-quel, including Alan Tudyk (yay!), Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich, and Ken Jeong (Variety, IMDb).

Second, Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) and Joss Whedon are planning to make a big-screen documentary about Comic-Con, called "Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope" (Variety). The documentary will follow seven fans from across America and around the globe as they make the trek to San Diego for the convention. I've never been to Comic-Con but I've long wanted to go, and I'd be interested in seeing the documentary. I wonder, though, who else might want to see it other than Comic-Con-type fanboys and fangirls themselves. Is this something non-geeks would be interested in? I guess we'll see.

That's all for now!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fall lineups - what we know so far

Here's what I've been able to gather about the fall TV lineups, concerning the shows that I have an interest in...

FlashForward has been canceled.
V has received a 13 episode order to return in midseason.
No Ordinary Family, the new Michael Chiklis drama about a family with superpowers ("live-action The Incredibles"), has been given a slot on Tuesday at 8 pm (all times ET).
Castle has been renewed, keeping its slot on Mondays at 10 pm.
While I started out the fall very hopeful (as ABC did) about both FlashForward and V as possible successors to Lost, both had disappointing flaws. However, I felt that FlashForward, unlike V, was starting to pick up again, staying interesting with surprising twists and intriguing turns. If either of these deserved a second chance, I would have said it was FlashForward. I guess V was holding onto better ratings, but sometimes ratings don't know better. That's how it goes, I guess.

Glee has been renewed, as we've known for a while now, but it has been moved to the 8 pm time slot on Tuesday.
Fringe will be returning in its 9 pm slot on Thursday.
(Variety blog)
I was worried this past year that Fringe's competitive time slot would kill it, but I guess it held its own well enough. I am relieved because, while it's still no Lost, I am definitely very fond of this show.

Chuck, after being on the bubble at the end of its second season last year, has been given a fourth season order, returning at 8 pm on Mondays.
Heroes has finally been canceled.
Undercovers, the new J.J. Abrams husband and wife CIA agent show, has been picked up to air on Wednesdays at 8 pm.

Hawaii Five-O, remade with Alex O'Loughlin, Daniel Dae Kim, Scott Caan, and Grace Park (yay!) has been given the 10 pm slot on Monday.
Big Bang Theory will be making the move from the Monday comedy block to Thursday at 8 pm.
(Variety, Variety)

Nikita, with Maggie Q as an assassin and spy, has been given the big 9 pm Thursday time slot behind Vampire Diaries.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bazaar Winnings, and download Portal for free

It took some time but my prizes from the BioWare Bazaar have finally arrived! After making such a big fuss about it last month, I figured I should show evidence of the payoff.

The two Mass Effect prequel novels, Mass Effect for Xbox 360, and the Mass Effect art book

I don't have an Xbox 360, but the Housemate and I are considering getting one. I am content with my PC gaming, but he has a Macbook with no video card worth mentioning and is very jealous of my fun games. So an Xbox 360 would mean he could play games, too, and then there's also the option of multiplayer games for both of us (and visiting guests), which would be fun.

My favorite part of the prize is the art book. Here are a few choice pages...

Asari concept sketches. My favorite is the full body drawing, second from the right, giving an idea not only of the Asari appearance, but the Asari character. Pretty and blue but not to be trifled with.

Ideas for the Mako. A hovercraft version (ideas shown bottom right) wouldn't make an appearance until ME2's downloadable content.

The beautiful Citadel Presidium. The bottom right shows a swanky Citadel apartment, never seen in the game. Looks like a nice place to live.

On a different but still gaming-related note, Steam is offering free downloads of the award-winning game Portal for Mac or PC totally free of charge right now until May 24.

Find it here

I haven't played it yet, but the basic idea is to use this hand-held portal device, which allows you to specify where in your line of sight the "in" portal should be and where the "out" portal should go, in order to uh, do stuff, such as get from A to B past various obstacles. It's a puzzle game. Beyond that I'm not sure how to describe it, but you can watch a nice demo video here. Can't argue the price, and the offer ends on May 24 (one week from now), so get it now, if you have any interest.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Visiting cousin

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been working on final exams for the past week. And today I finally finished! The last exam was pretty sucky, but at least it's over now. No vacation for me, though--summer is the time to get research done.

Anyway, I also mentioned that one of my first cousins was visiting O'ahu last week. She was supposed to stay with me the first night she got in along with an old friend of hers that she was vacationing with, but her plane got delayed forcing her to stay overnight in L.A., so it was just her friend, who I didn't know, that slept over. Potentially awkward, but it turned out just fine.

My cousin and her friend stayed most of the week out in Haleiwa on the North Shore. Between my extended family, there are three beachfront condos that no one lives in full time, so it's a good place for visiting relatives to stay. They came into Honolulu several times, and I went out to visit them on Sunday.

Most of what I did with my cousin centered around food. We had udon, pizza, Chinese food, Thai two times, sushi, malasadas, two trips to Waiola Shave Ice, and two trips to Bubbies (first time for ice cream pies, second time for ice cream mochi). Three of these I just have to gush about (Bubbies and Waiola are worth gushing about, too, but I think I've done that before).

If you don't know what a malasada is, it's kind of like a doughnut, a vaguely spherical fist-sized lump of dough fried then rolled in sugar. Can't go wrong with fried dough plus sugar, right? Leonard's Bakery is a great place to have them, and they have a number of different flavors, including cinnamon sugar, haupia (coconut cream-filled), and li hing sugar. Their special flavor of the month right now is mango-filled malasadas. I had never had one of these before, but it was delicious. I will have to go again before the end of the month!

I've eaten in Haleiwa many times, but I'd never really noticed the handful of lunch trucks that gather in this one parking lot at the end of the town that's farther from the ocean. But on Sunday, I went with my cousin and her friend to get lunch from the Thai food truck. They had eaten there a few days before, and her friend had somehow made friends with the chef in the truck, so when we each ordered separately, he decided that it would be better if we shared family-style and took it upon himself to decide which dishes would be good for us and would taste good together. So basically, he gave us one of the things we ordered and then a bunch of other stuff of his choosing. Which was fine because it was all really, really good. I would definitely go back to that place.

Last but not least, we had sushi for dinner at Tokkuri-Tei on Kapahulu. It was a bit pricey, though reasonable enough for the quality of the food. The sushi was very good, nice and fresh, but there was definitely one that was my favorite. They called it "There's a SPIDER in my POKE", which was really like a sushi roll with fancy poke held inside the seaweed. The spider part of it was tempura-fried soft-shell crab with the legs sticking out of the roll. There was also some sashimi, little greens, salmon roe, and smelt roe. And some sort of spicy sauce. The flavors were amazing, and there's something really fun about crunching on the soft-shell crab legs. Yum. I really wish I'd taken a picture, because it looked pretty awesome, too. Oh--luckily I found a picture at House of Annie:

The spider poke was especially expensive, though, so while I'd love to have it again I won't be rushing off to make a regular habit of it.

The other exciting thing I did with my cousin besides eating fun foods was I went stand-up paddle boarding for the first time. We rented boards at Waikiki along with the Housemate. My cousin and I did our best to paddle away from anything that looked like it might be a breaking wave; the Housemate went after those very same waves. Ah well. At one point a big wave knocked me off the board in an area with a shallow reef, giving me a nice scrape and bruise on my back. It was so shallow that I had to put my feet down to maneuver, but underneath me there were dozens of sea urchins. Ouch! I had to swim away from that area, amidst more breaking waves, looking very ungraceful with the long paddle in one of my hands. That was a little bit miserable. But the rest of the afternoon was mostly pleasant, and in one area with calm glassy water I could see pretty fish underneath me. The fact that seeing the fish was my favorite part of paddle boarding made me think that maybe I'm really more of the snorkeling/diving type than the surfing type. We'll see.

Anyway, I drove my cousin to the airport on Wednesday after we had a nice dinner with my grandparents. It was too bad she couldn't stay longer, especially now that I'm done with classes. And while I will be working full time doing research, I will have a little more flexibility with my hours, and NO HOMEWORK. That is the most exciting part--coming home without the guilt that I should be working on something. Of course, it won't be long before I'll have a prospectus to work on...then a dissertation...oh dear. I'll do my best to enjoy the summer while I can.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We're under attack! Grab a chopstick!

I often wake up remembering a dream or two, and occasionally I remember a dream in detail. Sometimes the dream is kind of boring, like the other night when my dream was about my professor trying to teach me something I think she called "area-time" graphs that I just wasn't understanding. It looked like a bunch of polygons on the chalkboard, but apparently it meant something important. Sometimes the dream makes very little sense, as in another recent dream of mine where I had a lightsaber and was jumping around to defend my companions from blaster shots, but then I was trying to find this other friend of mine who was I think the ex-girlfriend of the main bad guy but she was on our side but had lost her powers, so I went with her to try to get her powers back, which involved getting a group of warlocks to cast a spell on her and I was worried that she'd turn evil again, and worried that they'd find out I was one of their enemies, but then it was like they were actually casting a spell on a cat and this lady at the vet--don't ask how we got to the vet--was worried about the effects of the spell on the cat (answer: not good). Anyway, only very rarely do I have a dream that I remember in detail that is both exciting (and by that I mean geeky-exciting, usually requiring magic, spaceships, and/or combat) and relatively comprehensible. But I happened to have such a dream last night, so I figured I'd share. If I don't write it down, after all, I'm sure I'll forget it before long.


It was a Harry Potter-related dream. It started out from the point of view of the villains, like a movie or something might. One villain was observing a cabin that he knew Harry was in, but then another villain came up and reported that all of the kids in the cabin had used the Polyjuice potion to switch appearances with each other. They wouldn't be able to tell which one was actually Harry.

The dream then switched to my point of view from inside the cabin. It was a wood cabin with two main rooms. I was in the room at the front of the cabin, with the main door and front-facing windows, with about five other kids. I was looking out the front window, and it was night. There were lanterns hanging in lines by the front walk. Suddenly, I started feeling really sleepy, and noticed that the other kids in the room were falling asleep, too. We must have been given a sleeping potion so we'd all fall asleep and the bad guys could get us! I stumbled through the doorway opposite the main door into the other, larger room where the ten or so other kids were staying. They were all falling asleep, too. At this point, though, I realized that I was sort of shaking off the effects of the sleeping potion. It was a struggle, but I was winning. I called out to the others that they could resist the sleeping spell--"Fight it! Try to stay awake!"--but some of them must have had it worse. Soon most of us were asleep. Three of us--all girls, but considering the Polyjuice potion who knows who we actually were--managed to stay awake.

I heard noise outside. I looked out the front windows and saw a gang of maybe a dozen or so people. One threw a flaming torch onto our roof. I went running back into the larger second room, where there was a shelf with two magic wands on it...and some wooden chopsticks (not sure why no one had their own wands). There were three of us, though, so two of us got wands and I handed the third girl a chopstick. I suggested that we levitate all the sleeping kids out the secret back door of the cabin that led to an underground tunnel. It became apparent, though, that the wooden chopstick didn't work. Rats. Luckily I noticed that a second shelf at the back of the big room had a wand at the very top. I couldn't reach it, and there were no chairs to get it down, but then I remembered the summoning charm--

Accio wand!

It flew into my hand. Now we all had wands. I barked orders for the other two to levitate the sleeping kids out the underground passage while I held off the intruders. As the others headed down the tunnel with our sleeping friends, I used the back door to the passage as a bottleneck so I'd only face one or two intruders at a time. By now, the flames were starting to take down the cabin--bad idea for the intruders who had to enter the flaming cabin to get to us. As they came through the doorway towards the passage, the only spells I could remember were the killing spell, which I wouldn't use, and Confundo*. So as each person came through the door--Confundo! They'd become confused, forget why they were there, and wander off. Confundo! Confundo!

It worked quite well--I was quick. Finally I was down to the last intruder. But, before I could cast Confundo on him, he managed to explain that they weren't our enemy, after all. They were on our side, and they were trying to help us get out of the cabin before we were attacked by the real bad guys.

"So why did you torch our cabin?"

"We have a better safe house for you to use. We'll take you there."

Not a very good explanation as to why they had to burn it down while we were sleeping inside, but, well, you know dream logic. So we went off to their much bigger and cooler fortress. And that's the last of it I remember.


Gotta love dreams. Such a shame that the wooden chopstick didn't work. Always worth a try, though...

*Strangely enough, when I woke up I wasn't sure if Confundo was a "real" Harry Potter spell or what exactly it did if it was, but I was basically right in the dream. It seems my dream memory can be better than my waking memory.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Update: Final Exams

It's been a while. Finals week. Hell. Take home was due on Monday. Oral exam was Tuesday. Two down, one to go. Shame the last is the hardest--and that's saying something, considering my classes this semester. But Friday at noon = freedom.

So I've been bogged down by studying/coding/writing/scrawling equations on my office chalkboard for the past week and a half. The free time I have managed to find I've spent with my cousin who's been in town since last week Tuesday. She just got her master's in voice and will be going to study in Cincinnati for another degree (she's the silhouette performing in the photos from this old post). She leaves tonight. Shame she had to come during finals. Bad timing for me, but at least she had a good time (her friend was here vacationing with her, and she got some nice visits in with the grandparents).

I'll have further updates hopefully at the end of the week. For now, back to studying.

I can also derive the equation at the top straight from the momentum equations, but that would require at least half another board. Rossby waves rock.