Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Sorry for this somber and entirely personal, unentertaining post. I just feel the need to "talk," and document these events.

My grandmother passed away yesterday morning. She was 88.

We'd had ample warning. Two years ago she was very healthy--she even drove me around in her car the time I visited as a prospective student to UH. But after three strokes in 18 months, she'd been living the last two months in the full-time nursing floor of the retirement home she and my grandfather moved into ten years ago. The past month in particular has been full of ups and downs. One month ago she started getting a fever, which went up and down for a couple weeks. Two weeks ago, they switched her to palliative care, taking her off of her non-essential, or longer-term, medications. A week and a half ago was the first time the nurses couldn't rouse her for her meal. We thought it might be over then, but the next meal she woke up. My mom and older brother arrived a day later to help take care of her. For the next five days, she continued to improve each day. On the fifth day, last week Tuesday, she was strong enough to feed herself again, she had my mom take her outside into the fresh air and sun for a bit, and she was smiling and talking a little bit, though still not much. It's a little strange, actually, that we considered it such a great day, since just three weeks ago it would have been only a normal one.

On Wednesday she got very feverish again, and she slept from that afternoon all the way through Thanksgiving on Thursday. By Friday, since she hadn't eaten or drunk anything for two days, and didn't show signs of change, we figured that was going to be the end. I dug the Housemate's printer/scanner out of my closet to scan in a photo of her for the obituary. I couldn't get the light balance quite right, and there were little white specks in the scanned image I couldn't get rid of. I suppose once it's shrunk down for the newspaper, they won't show at all.

On Friday night, my mom and brother and I were sitting in her room, just to be with her, when she started coughing, and woke up. Fully awake, not just cracking her eye open without showing signs of awareness, as she had done once or twice on Thursday. Every time she spoke (to be clear, this was only one or two words on about three different occasions) my mom jumped, as if my grandmother had just come back from the dead. She ate some poi (which in addition to being her personal favorite is nutritious and requires no chewing--perfect) and drank some water. She listened intently as we read letters that her children and grandchildren not present had sent, looked on as we showed her photos of our families, and smiled when I pulled out her ukulele to play the two songs I've learned. After two and a half hours, she was looking pretty sleepy again, so we said good night and left her.

She slept all through Saturday and Sunday, though she did seem to try to crack open her eyes when she heard our voices on Sunday night. By then, though, she was breathing rapidly, which, as my doctor grandfather informed us in a very doctorly way, is a sign of the terminal stage. Her rapid breathing through her mouth was drying out her lips, much to my mom's distress, and the nurses didn't have anything suitable to keep them moist--the water we put on at their suggestion just dried out immediately and left her lips drier. So I swabbed her lips with my ChapStick.

On Monday morning, I got the call that she had died. She had been comfortable, and went peacefully. I had class that day, and my brother, who was the one calling me, told me that I didn't need to go, as he and my mother were headed over to be with my grandfather. I didn't feel the need to see her again before the mortuary people took her. I'd seen her the previous night when she was alive. Why should I see her when she's dead?

That night in my grandfather's apartment, things seemed the same. I hadn't seen my grandmother up in the apartment for over two months, so it was easy to think that she was still just downstairs sleeping. I had to remind myself that she wasn't, and never would be again.

There's a bulletin board in the retirement home's lobby that always has an In Memoriam section, with photos of recently passed residents. Every time I walk by it, I see someone new listed there--retirement homes have a relatively high turnover rate. But this time, of course, it was my grandmother. Seeing it was like a dream, like it didn't quite make sense.

I got home that night, and looked up the chords to "Into the West" for the ukulele. I guess even in the face of tragedy, I can still be a geek. But it is a beautiful song. And now that I have inherited her ukulele, I had better learn to play more songs.

I am sad, but accepting; I'd been prepared. It's too bad that she didn't live to see any of her grandchildren get married. But she got to know us all, she was proud of us, and she knew we loved her. She was happy. If I can get to her age and say as much, I will know that I've lived a good life.

RIP, Popo.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hathaway & Franco, Spidey disaster, and Kershner dies

A few bits of entertainment news:

I've been tracking the Spider-Man musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, for a while now, first as I thought it sounded like a ridiculous idea, then as I thought it might turn out to be good, then as I saw it plagued by multiple problems (running out of money, losing cast members) and delays (remember when previews were supposed to start last February? those were the days...). The most recent news is not good. After all this time, the show finally opened for preview showings on November 28 (the premiere is scheduled for January 11), but the performance is being called a disaster (e.g. Studio Briefing, NYPost). There were multiple significant malfunctions, such as cast members (including Spidey himself) being left hanging over the audience for several minutes. These glitches forced the performance to stop four times in the first act, and once in the second. During one of the stops, an audience member was heard to say, "I feel like a guinea pig tonight. I feel like it’s a dress rehearsal." Well, it kind of was... Reeve Carney (Peter Parker) said that it was the first time they'd gone all the way through the show (broadway.com). Wow, no wonder there were so many things going wrong. The whole performance took three and a half hours, and to make things worse, some audience members reported a boring score and confusing script. The most expensive Broadway show ever, at $65 million, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark can't afford to be a flop. Things aren't looking good so far.

Irvin Kershner, director of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, passed away this past Saturday at age 87 (Variety). The first sequel to the original Star Wars, the darker Empire Strikes Back initially received mixed reviews. However, it has gone on to become the most highly praised of all the Star Wars films. Much of the credit is given to Kershner. RIP.

OK, now, let's end on a lighter note...
It has been announced that Anne Hathaway and James Franco will be hosting this year's Oscars ceremony (e.g. Studio Briefing). Last year's ceremony had a pair of hosts as well, with Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin hosting the event, but the choice breaks from recent tradition by having hosts who are neither comedians nor song-and-dance performers. Not that Franco and Hathaway can't be funny or sing (we've seen some evidence to the contrary), but these are not talents for which they are primarily known. About the choice, producers said, "James Franco and Anne Hathaway personify the next generation of Hollywood icons— fresh, exciting and multi-talented." Their selection may be an attempt to increase the ratings for the telecast, bringing in young eyes who may not have been drawn by last year's "old fogies." Franco is very likely to be nominated for a lead acting Oscar this year, for his role in 127 Hours. Anne Hathaway received a best actress nomination two years ago for her lead role in Rachel Getting Married, and has a chance at a nomination this year for her role in Love and Other Drugs. I like both of these actors, so I hope they find ways to use them well in the ceremony. I'm hopeful it will be an entertaining show.

Friday, November 26, 2010

One month down, two (plus) more to go...

It has been one month now since my boyfriend, aka the Housemate, left for Antarctica. I am not holding up as well as I thought I would.

We've been messaging and emailing practically every day since he left, though there was a six-day period in there where he was on a boat and had no communication with me at all. In the past week and a half, we've even been video chatting most days. That has definitely helped a lot. But I still miss him like crazy. Once in a while, I go through periods where I find myself feeling really sad, almost lost without him--I even whimper. I just want him to come home, or for me to hop on a plane and go to Antarctica to be with him.

What happened to me? Up until a little over a year ago, I'd never had a boyfriend. High school, college, and two years of post-grad, I never felt like I needed a boy. I was single and proud. But now I have a boy, and when he goes away, I feel miserable. Have I really become so dependent? So weak?

I expected it to be a little difficult without him. He's such a huge part of the life that I've constructed here in Hawaii: housemate, classmate, best friend, boyfriend. Without him, there's no one there when I wake up, eat breakfast, walk to school, walk home from school, make dinner, eat dinner, watch TV shows, and go to bed. No one to talk to about my day when I get home from school. I have been spending a little more time with a couple of my friends at school, but it's nowhere near what I had with the Housemate.

On top of this, though, I think I'm missing him even more than I anticipated due to unexpected circumstances. I'm going through a bit of a rough patch right now. My research at school is in a sort of bad place. I've been stuck for a little while on a problem, partially because I'm having trouble finding the motivation to move forward and fix it. I've been doubting the direction of my project, and even my passion for the topic. It's sort of a downward spiral: I get frustrated with some problem in my project, so I start to question whether it's a good idea at all, which makes my motivation to work through the problem diminish, so I spend even more time getting frustrated, etc. Now that my fellowship application is in and I really have no excuse for not moving forward with my project, I've been feeling a little depressed about my research.

The other thing that's hovering over my head is that my grandmother is really not well. She's been living under nursing care for the past few months because she's really weak after her last stroke, but at least she had been talkative (though, having poor short term memory, she'd keep asking the same questions) and was feeding herself. But the past month has been full of ups and downs--periods of fever, or no fever, times where she can feed herself, or can't feed herself, is talking, isn't talking, etc. My mom and brother arrived last week Thursday, and the next day she started to get better. Still not how she'd been a month ago, but she was talking a little and wanted us to wheel her out for some fresh air and sunlight. But then suddenly on Wednesday, she had a bad fever and hardly seemed aware of us being there... Basically, it's very possible that this is the final downhill slide for her. I'm resigned, but it's still stressful, and the fact that all we can do is wait is so sad. So it wasn't the best Thanksgiving. My brother and I had a couple hours at a proper Thanksgiving dinner party with extended family members on the island--as I had celebrated Thanksgiving last year--but most of the day was spent hanging out with the grandparents, holding my grandmother's hand, holding a wet cloth on her forehead, comforting my mom. Forgetting that it was supposed to be a day to be thankful, and just feeling sad and stressed.

So that may be why I miss the Housemate so much, and feel so empty and lonely sometimes. Having him here couldn't fix all my problems, but it would certainly be some welcome comfort and support. February can't come soon enough. I thought having my mom and brother here would help speed things along, but no such luck. I guess there's still the holiday season to look forward to.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, to those who celebrate it today. And to those who don't, well, happy workday! OK, happy Thursday, at least.

So I saw RAY J's post with a "fun Thanksgiving questionnaire" and thought I'd answer the questions too. The weather here in Hawaii is no good for getting me in the mood for Thanksgiving (it should be cold! the leaves should be gone!), so hopefully this fill-in-the-blanks questionnaire will help me feel Thanksgiving-y.

1. My Thanksgiving plans this year will include...
visiting my grandparents in their retirement home around lunchtime, since my grandmother isn't well enough to leave, then going to my great aunt and uncle's house for dinner with lots of cousins.

2. My favorite Thanksgiving was...
freshman year in college, when I brought my three unofficial roommates (I spent almost no time in my actual dorm room that year, but always hung out with these three girls in the room that belonged to two of them) home with me for Thanksgiving. I remember on the bus ride home, I taught them the names of the 16 family members of mine who would be there, and how to identify each one, so they could act like family, too (because I know I can't remember 16 new names from just one introduction).

3. My signature Thanksgiving dish is...
Well, the only thing that I can come close to calling "my" Thanksgiving dish is the pumpkin spice cookies I made last year. They were a huge hit at the party, and I was so very pleased with myself that I even did a post about the cookies.

4. My favorite Thanksgiving food is...
pumpkin pie! Also, my mom made this cranberry sauce (or relish?) dish once that had pomegranates and orange zest in it (and other yummy stuff). It was sooo good!

5. Thanksgiving free association!
pie, turkey, Thursday, family, Pilgrims

6. Thanksgiving is...
a great time to get together with family and PIG OUT without guilt!

7. I am thankful for...
my mom's pies. Oh, um, and you know, having such a loving family, and all that stuff.

The only Thanksgiving-appropriate decoration I have in my house is a small pumpkin that I bought before Halloween--I figured it could do double duty and be a nice table centerpiece for both holidays. It's pleasingly round, about the size of a large grapefruit, and had a nice smooth orange complexion. But in the past few days, it has started to get little green spots. I know it's over a month old, so I shouldn't be surprised if it isn't perfect anymore, but I have never observed pumpkins getting green spots. I always think of fruits and vegetables as starting out green, then turning other colors as they ripen, not the other way around. Oh well, it still looks nice enough, and it'll be past season by tomorrow. Such is the life of a pumpkin. I should have taken a photo of it when it was still all orange. It really was quite cute.

I hope everyone has a great day and eats a lot of good food! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Navel-gazing: My blog's traffic sources

If you're on my blog, there's a fair chance you are just looking for a good photo of a humuhumunukunukuapua'a. And you didn't even find the humuhumu photo I took myself, but instead the one that I poached off of someone else's website (sorry, whoever you are!) for my Intro to Hawaii series.

Yes, starting this past July, Blogger finally started showing us bloggers some statistics for our blogs, such as numbers of pageviews (total for the blog as well as top individual posts), traffic sources, and audience composition (including country, browser, and operating system). It was about time; I know some other blog platforms have offered stats for a while, and since comments and followers are not very good indicators for numbers of hits or visitors, I have on occasion wondered what my blog traffic is like. It's a bit of a shame, though, that it started only in July because I suspect that May-June may have been my blog's peak in exposure. Oh well, I could be completely wrong about that...I guess we'll never know, right?

Anyway, the thing that I have found most intriguing to look at in the stats is my blog's traffic sources--particularly the most popular search terms that lead to my blog. These search terms are clearly a large factor in determining my blog's most popular posts, and they are not what I might have expected. The following are the top searches that lead people to my little blog, in approximate order (I believe that the number counted for searches does not include image searches, so I can't offer a strict order of popularity):

First, a note: I mention in my post Google search results rankings. I know that search results vary depending at least on the searcher's location, and possibly other factors, so these are merely my own Google search result rankings; I can't speak for others.

Image search for humuhumunukunukuapua'a. As I mentioned above, people using this image search term find the photo that I poached off of someone else's website for my Intro to Hawaii wildlife post. It's an injustice that my copy of it has wound up higher on the search results than whoever posted the original (when I do a Google image search, it comes up 5th on the list). I don't know how this photo gained popularity, but I guess there are relatively few sites that actually have the full Hawaiian name of the fish written out.

Felicia Day. I can't imagine I'm anywhere near a top search result for her name, but somehow it comes up. People must click through a lot of Felicia Day site listings to find this blog. Image searches for Felicia Day also lead here, whether the searchers find the screen shot I took of her throwing a fireball in my Kinect post (it's a rather pleasing pose), or the photo I copied of Day with Crabcat Industries at Comic-Con on my post about Crabcat Industries. Speaking of which...

Crabcat Industries. This top search item actually makes sense to me, since there aren't that many sites--yet--that talk about Crabcat Industries, but there is rising interest in their awesome group. They've just launched their own website, at www.crabcatindustries.com.

Kinect RPG. Tons of people are excited about the Kinect, but gamers want to know what RPGs exist for the Kinect. Bad news: There aren't any signs of Kinect RPGs on the horizon. So the people searching for a Kinect RPG often find themselves out of luck on my blog with RPG in the title, on my post about the Kinect.

How To Train Your Dragon RPG. There is a HTTYD forum RPG, but not much in the way of anything money-making that would be advertised, or have multiple pages with lots of hits. Just enough people are lured to my post on HTTYD after searching for a HTTYD RPG that when I do a Google search for it, I'm somehow the 2nd result.

RPG called life. Are people actually searching for my blog? Or is it just people who think it's a catchy phrase to search for (another occasional search term is "life RPG")? I am pleased to find that when I do a Google search for my blog title (no quotes), my blog is the first result.

I also have some of the top (English-language) Google image search results for the name Berlin Zoo in combination with various animals (e.g. otter, tayra). So my blog gets a significant number of hits from people image searching with those terms, and finding my post on the Berlin Zoo.

These popular search terms mostly explain the posts on my blog that have received the most hits ("all time", i.e. since July), which are as follows:
Introduction to Hawai'i: Wildlife
Top 10 characters I want to be
I want a Kinect
How To Train Your Dragon
Crabcat Industries

The exception is the Top 10 characters post. Why does it rank so highly? Sure, it is one of the posts that I recommend as a "favorite" at the top of my blog, but there are 12 others there, none of which have nearly as many hits. Little in my popular traffic sources leads to this post (the only thing I've noticed is the occasional hit from a Google image search leading to the Sydney Bristow picture). Alas, the popularity of this post remains a mystery to me. Well, it is one of my favorites--very fun to write--so I guess I can't complain.

OK, that's all the navel-gazing for now. I realize this was possibly extremely uninteresting for anyone other than myself. Sorry about that. Thanks for reading, anyway!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Game of Thrones HBO series

This week's Entertainment Weekly features exclusive photos from the set of HBO's upcoming Game of Thrones series, based on the books by George R. R. Martin. And I just have to say EEEEEEEE!!! I'm so excited!

Check out the photos

This is a fantasy series that really belongs on HBO. Movies would have to truncate it way too much and wouldn't do it justice. The networks--and softer cable channels--couldn't touch it. Given the content and the need for period detail (and the necessary money to make it), I can't really picture it anywhere else. Wherever they're doing True Blood and Boardwalk Empire, that's where Game of Thrones should be. Perfect.

Now, about the pictures on EW. They don't show nearly as much as I'd like. They have very little of the younger characters, which is frustrating because they are for the most part played by unknown actors, and I really want to see them. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) looks good, and there's also a nice shot of cute little Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). Argh, but what about the other Stark children? We also have a nice shot of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), with her unnaturally platinum blond hair. It will be interesting to see how the actress handles her unusual role. I wonder how old the actress is--the character is supposed to be only 13, but the transforming, complex role would require a huge amount of maturity.

The adult actors are a little less of a mystery, and we get some nice shots of them at EW. Sean Bean as Eddard Stark--I approve. Reminds me a bit of Boromir, but I suppose that's to be expected, especially in stills when we can't see his rather different character in action. Mark Addy (The Full Monty, A Knight's Tale) looks good as Robert Baratheon. I suppose I'm used to seeing him play goofy characters, but I'm sure he'll fit the role well. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. Of course. The casting requirements for that role are fairly specific. But I think he'll fit the role well, and not just because of his stature. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister. Hey, he's the guy from that short-lived show New Amsterdam. He looks good. Very good. Yeah, I'd do him, even if he were my br--no, no, just kidding. Moving on... Lena Headey as Cersei Baratheon. Eech. This is the one role that I'm not so sure about, which is strange because I love Lena Headey--Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was a highly under appreciated show. But as Cersei? I think mainly it's the blonde thing. I'm looking at the photo, and she looks like Lena Headey with a blond wig/dyed hair. It's actually kind of an important plot point that her character is a natural blonde, and from the way it looks in this photo, she's not pulling it off. I suppose ultimately that's a very small thing, and the acting is what really matters, but still, I wish she looked a little more convincing as a blonde.

The overall look of the sets and costumes is great. It's not quite Lord of the Rings, but they're putting a lot of detail into creating the world (they created a whole language, a la Klingon, for the Dothraki). This isn't glamorous fantasy, it's dark and dirty and kind of drab. As far as the look of the world goes, I think they pretty much nailed it. It's just how I want it to be.

This is a pretty unique series. As the article quotes Sean Bean as saying, "The story is so different from what we're used to seeing on television". Yes, it's dark and kind of depressing and deals with things that make people, particularly studio heads, squirm. For the most part, I love reading fantasy for the escape--I can picture myself as one of the characters, or another character in the world (bad fan fiction in my head), and it seems like it would be really cool to be there in that world. Not so much the case with Game of Thrones. Their world seems like it's kind of a grim place to be. It was probably the toughest fantasy book I've read in that regard, but the story is so interesting, the characters so intriguing, that it becomes worth it.

Seeing these photos has inspired me to get back into reading the series. I got distracted by other things after reading the first book, but if they're going to do a TV adaptation, I'd better get ahead. It looks like it could be excellent. I hope the show is a huge success.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Just wanted to share an xkcd comic from this week, since it describes a part of my life right now.


7,655 miles (12 320 kilometers) is a long, long way. Email and gchat don't feel like enough. And it's only been two and a half weeks. Three months (or more) to go...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Holograms! and more Spider-Man casting

In casting news for the new Spider-Man reboot, Martin Sheen is in final negotiations for the part of Uncle Ben, while Sally Field is in talks to play Aunt May (Cinematical). Already cast are Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as villain The Lizard. Mary Jane will not be making an appearance in the new movie (EOnline).

As usual, I'm excited by news related to science-fiction technologies becoming simply science. Scientists at the University of Arizona are working on developing holograms--a la "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."--and they're making impressive progress, publishing an article in scientific journal Nature (AZ Daily Star). Recent developments in 3D technology may have eliminated the need for 3D glasses (I am currently only aware of it working on smallish screens, but presumably it could be expanded to larger screens as well), provided that the viewer stands within a certain range from the screen, but this takes it a big step further. Images are in "full parallax", so you can actually see more of an object by moving around; for instance, moving to the right of a head facing forward allows you to see the left side of the head; moving up lets you see the top of the head. Now that is immersion. To create this effect, 16 cameras are used to record an image from all sides. The image requires a screen to appear (so it's not quite like R2-D2's projection of Princess Leia), but because of the true, full 3D images, the screen could be horizontal or vertical. The main problem with the current technology as I see it is that at present, the images can only refresh every 2 seconds. But that's still a huge improvement over three years ago, when the images required minutes to change. It shouldn't be too long before they have the images refreshing fast enough to trick us into seeing movement. Also, three years ago the holograms were in only one color, and now they have three colors.

The project is being pursued simply as a research project, without application as a main focus. But one could definitely imagine such technology being put to use in hospitals (3D brain images?), war rooms (3D battle plans), and video conferencing. And of course in entertainment. Movies and video games could find ways to use the impressive immersion of the hologram. Principle investigator Nasser Peyghambarian predicts that the technology in some form could be available to some customers in five to ten years. I can't wait.


On a personal note, I have a fellowship application due in the next couple weeks, I have a ton of progress I need to make on my schoolwork, and there's a lot going on with my family life at the moment (grandmother here in Honolulu is sick, my mom is coming out in a week and a half to visit), so basically I'm pretty busy right now. I may not be posting much in the next several weeks. But I'll still be around. Catch you later.