Friday, December 31, 2010

The close of 2010

I have been a pretty terrible blogger in the last month (assuming I was ever marginally competent). Sure I can claim to have been busy and preoccupied, but part of it was just me feeling unmotivated. I guess there are times when I write here because I feel the need to share my thoughts on some subject, but there are also times when it seems like too much work. There were three posts that I started in the month of December but never got around to finishing (and are now too out of date to complete). Any other ideas I might have had last month (if there were any) didn't even get that far. Still, I feel like 2010 deserves some form of closing post, even if I will be publishing this in the new year.

So what (of note) did 2010 bring to me?

I was still playing some Dragon Age: Origins at the beginning of the year, and then again when they put out the Morrigan DLC. I also played through Portal after Steam offered it for free, and that was quite a revelation. It was too short, of course, but I am eagerly anticipating the release of the longer, larger Portal 2. I finished up the main campaign of Guild Wars all alone, as my brother couldn't bring himself to play the last three missions with me (sniff!). He did, however, get me to buy Borderlands, which he is willing to play with me, and we're nearing the end of our second playthrough together. But really, this year was all about Mass Effect 2. It is an awesome game, fun, powerful, and very well done. I loved it so much, and the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC which I recently played was just icing on the cake. I can't wait for Mass Effect 3, but at the same time I will be so sad to see the saga end.

Regarding other types of gaming, I also just got hooked on Dominion. Unfortunately, it was a Christmas gift that my younger brother received, so if I want to continue playing it when I go back to Hawaii, I will have to secure a set for myself. If you don't know the game, I highly recommend you check it out.

Fringe continues to be my favorite show on TV. My favorite new show of the year was Nikita, though Hawaii Five-0 is a guilty pleasure of mine as well (it's so fun to recognize places they go to, though less so to imagine that people have been found dead there...). Glee had some ups and downs, but I think they may be on the right track again (hope hope). More disappointingly, they canceled FlashForward last spring, and Caprica this fall. I'm particularly bitter about Caprica. Maybe Blood & Chrome will help explain how the events in Caprica ultimately led to the Cylons of the Cylon War, but I'm not counting on it.

I saw more this year than I think I usually do in the theater. I'm trying to remember which ones (I should keep a list or something). Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Inception, Kick-Ass, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, and Black Swan stand out, but I'm surely forgetting others that I enjoyed. And those are just ones in the theater--I also recently saw the movie Clue for the first time (funny and very enjoyable), as well as (500) Days of Summer, which was quite beautiful.

I just have to share this anecdote from the theater when I saw Black Swan. At the end of the movie, as the credits started rolling and the lights went up, my friend and I overheard this conversation behind us:
Person 1: I don't get it... Did [slight spoiler happen] at the end?
Person 2: No, they have to leave it open for a sequel.
It was hilarious. This is not the type of movie that would have a sequel. Really, I mean, it's Darren Aronofsky. Imagine The Wrestler Returns. Requiem II for a Dream. Or Pi^2. No. Anyway, my friend and I thought the idea of Black Swan 2 was pretty hilarious.

In terms of classes and grades, 2010 may have been my best year ever (that one darn professor who only gave me an A). But unfortunately I'm not an undergrad anymore, and doing well in classes is not enough. I need to be doing research, developing my plan for my dissertation, writing my prospectus. That is so much harder for me than the clear-cut goal of mastering class material to do well on an exam. I got enough research done in one of the summer months to have something to present at the yearly student presentations, and then again at a presentation to the general public at Hanauma Bay. But that was really my only productive month of the year. Aside from that, I have failed miserably at being a good grad student. Luckily, I have PhD Comics to help me feel like I am not alone.

Family and friends
2010 was the first year that I had a boyfriend (and the same one, at that: "The Housemate") for the entire year. Over one sixth of the year, though, he was away in Antarctica. I rather like having a boyfriend, but I'm still not sure how serious the relationship is or where it is going. This will deserve its own post, later.

My grandmother died. I am now down to one grandparent--her husband. As the only one of their progeny living in the same city (in fact, I live less than a mile from my grandfather, whereas the next nearest descendant is a five hour plane ride away), I think it will largely fall on me to keep him company. I can't imagine how lonely it must feel to lose your spouse of 62 years.

My roommate from college came to visit me right before Christmas. Despite unusually rainy weather, we had a lot of fun, and her stay was all too short. I still need to go through those photos. If there are any good ones, I'll be sure to share.

In short
It was a good year overall. Could have been better, but could have been a lot worse. I hope that in the new year I'll be able to sort out some of the kinks I've developed in the past year (mainly, questions about the boyfriend and what the heck I'm doing in grad school). So I'll take a cup of kindness for 2010, and I wish for an even better 2011.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Update: grandmother, exams, holiday

My grandmother's funeral was last Saturday. The service was very nice. The church was beautiful, and the flower arrangements were lovely (it was convenient that it's Christmas, so the church was already decked out in poinsettias...we just added even more flowers). We grandchildren all sang "Over the Rainbow" (Iz's tune, original lyrics) accompanied by me and one of my cousins on the ukulele (I'm still terrible at playing the uke, so I was glad that I showed my cousin the chords...he's quite good at guitar already). Another cousin--the one with a masters in vocal performance training to be an opera singer--sang a slightly modified version of "For Good" from Wicked. The turnout was good, and we ended up with just about the right amount of food (yummy Chinese food) at the reception afterwards (i.e., enough for a meal of leftovers).

On Sunday night we had dinner with family from my grandfather's side, which was actually closer to my grandmother as an adult than her side of the family (she didn't seem that close to her siblings), then went back to one of their houses to "talk story" (it's a Hawaii phrase) about my grandmother. I ended up learning a lot about her I hadn't known. I also learned a lot about my grandfather's parents that I hadn't known...even though we were there to share memories about my grandmother, my grandfather and great uncles couldn't keep themselves from veering off topic to talk about other family members who have passed.

We buried her on Monday. It's a lovely cemetery right next to Diamond Head, with the graves decorated by the colorful tropical flowers loved ones bring. I'd been there several times before, as my grandmother's parents and grandfather's parents (whom I never met) are all buried there. The weather was perfect--sunny and clear, slight breeze, not too hot (80ish). I'm relatively stoic, but it was during the burial that I cried the most. It finally sunk in how final this was. That if I wanted to visit my grandmother from now on, that I'd have to come here. And the thought that her parents were buried nearby, and now their daughter was joining them, really got to me.

On Tuesday I got back to work. I had to study for my final exam on Friday morning. I took the exam and I think it went pretty well. I say this now, of course, but I could have gotten some of the questions completely wrong. We'll see. I tried to find my advisor after the exam, but there was no sign of him in his office--for all I know he's already off for winter break. I haven't seen him in a month. With all the family stuff going on, and me just being a general slacker right now (I haven't been feeling very motivated lately), I never had anything to report to him. No progress made on my research. I'm actually a little depressed about it. So I sent him an email saying what's been up with my family (I hadn't even told him about my grandmother), which will hopefully excuse me from not making any progress with my research this month, and wishing him happy holidays. I feel bad, though, that I didn't see him to say that in person. Oh well.

A couple hours after my exam, I went to pick up my college roommate from the airport. I haven't seen her in a year and a half, since our second reunion. I bought a pikake lei (not a very nice one...I am a poor grad student) for her, since I figure it's her first time on the island and I might as well give her the full Hawaii treatment. They're so beautifully fragrant, and as I type this on my bed, it's making my bedroom smell wonderful. My friend is here for five days; I leave on the same flight as she does to go to my parents' for the holidays. Hopefully we can fit in a lot of good stuff in those five days. I'll probably not be blogging much in that time. I hope everyone is well, and I'll surely have at least one more post by Christmas, but in any case, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wear Star Wars/Share Star Wars for Katie: P.S.

Success! (See my post explaining Star Wars Katie Day here)

I chose a Yoda chopstick lightsaber because they're slightly shorter than the others. And did you catch the Jedi Bear cameo in the back?

Wear Star Wars/Share Star Wars for Katie

I still haven't been posting much, as things are still pretty busy with family in town. The funeral is on Saturday and the burial is on Monday. Most of the visiting relatives will be leaving on Tuesday (including my mother, so I can finally get my car back--phew!).

You've likely heard elsewhere already, but today is Wear Star Wars, Share Star Wars in Support of Katie Day (or whatever people are calling it). A 7-year-old named Katie is a Star Wars fan who loves her new Star Wars water bottle, but one day she told her mom that she wanted to bring the old pink water bottle to school instead. When her mother asked why, Katie started crying and explained that kids at school told her that Star Wars is just for boys. Her mother took to her blog, and from there the word spread. Before long, hundreds (and now maybe thousands) of geeks--especially girl geeks--had left comments in support of little Katie. And she didn't just get comments. She got to accompany a Star Wars: The Clone Wars voice actor to a screening, and she's received numerous Star Wars gifts from ThinkGeek, Clone Wars cast members, and many other people moved by Katie's story. Most of the toys her mother will be donating to charity, and she recommends that anyone who wants to give Katie toys instead donate toys to needy children, as Katie has enough. She certainly has enough support to proudly carry her Star Wars water bottle and backpack around school. And Katie supporters have chosen today to honor Katie by wearing Star Wars clothing and donating Star Wars toys to charities.

I totally support the sentiment of the occasion. I don't remember it very well, but as my mom tells it, in pre-school when all the other girls wanted to play dress-up, I wanted to play Star Wars. Sure, I was a pink princess and little mermaid for Halloween, but I also had a Superman cape (with my initial on it instead of an S, of course) and SilverHawk wings. Social norms, and some interest on my part, kept me only half geeky in elementary school--I really did love The Little Mermaid, and my dad would read me books like A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, which were all right (to his credit, my dad still regrets not reading me Lord of the Rings when I was little, as he had to my brothers). But it wasn't until I reached middle school and began devouring the Redwall series that I really started to grow into my true geeky self. This led to my high school reading of Lord of the Rings, Shannara, Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, and more. Both of my parents were Star Wars fans so we'd been brought up on the original trilogy, and about the time that I got to high school, the prequels came out in theaters. Around the same time we got The Matrix, and it wasn't long before the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies were coming out, too. Yes, there were plenty of great reasons to be a geek.

I was lucky that I was never really teased for my geekiness--at least if I was (chances are I was at some point), I found it so insignificant that I've forgotten it. I'll be clear here: by "geekiness," I'm referring to my love of fantasy, sci-fi, and gaming. I have been teased about my nerdiness--being smart (not teased badly, but enough to make me embarrassed at times about good grades)--and about my dorkiness (I didn't really "fit in" with other kids in middle school). But by the time that I was flying my geek colors, I was in high school, and I had a strong group of friends who loved me for my geeky interests (many were geeks themselves). I even felt perfectly confident doing my presentation on Quenya (one of Tolkien's Elvish languages) for my senior year English class, and that's a pretty intense level of geek.

But I can totally understand Katie's situation. Stores with toy departments split into a Boys' section and a Girls' section are one of many ways that young children are taught what things they "should" be interested in, and what things are "just" for the other gender. I always cite this one commercial I saw about three or four years ago for a Playskool kitchen/laundry set: sink, dishwasher, oven, stove, washer, dryer. As a little girl played and giggled, the voice over cheerily told us something to the effect of "Give her the tools to learn and grow into whatever she wants to be." That is, as long as it's a housewife. Cooking can be fun, but washing dishes and doing laundry are really just chores. Really, who could blame any little girl for having more fun pretending to be a Jedi saving the galaxy than pretending to do the laundry? I recognize that there may on average be some innate differences in boys' and girls' interests, but they are not as great as out-of-date social norms imagine--or force--them to be.

So I am in full support of Katie today. One problem: I have realized that I don't actually have any Star Wars clothing or accessories to wear today! Total geek fail. Hmm, I have things related to Firefly, and Mass Effect, and Dragon Age...but no Star Wars. Maybe I can figure out how to put these lightsaber chopsticks in my hair.* At the very least, I'm with Katie in spirit. May the Force be with you, Katie.

* P.S. Success!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Galadriel in The Hobbit, and more Game of Thrones

Cate Blanchett has signed on to reprise her Lord of the Rings role as Galadriel in the two planned Hobbit movies (EW, Variety). This is somewhat of a surprise since, unlike Gollum and Gandalf, Galadriel does not appear in The Hobbit book. We are left to suppose that because The Hobbit has virtually no female characters, Galadriel is being pulled in to offer a little bit of variety. We'll have to wait to see what part Galadriel will play in the story.

Next, I just watched this awesome video on HBO's adaptation of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones. If you're a fan of the series, you have to take a look. If you're unfamiliar with the series, you have to take a look.

Before this I'd seen only photos from the set, so this has me unbelievably excited. We at least get glimpses of the Stark children (and widdle wolf puppies!), as well as a good look at Ned Stark (, Robert Baratheon, Cersei (her blondness didn't bother me as much as it had in the photo), Tyrion, Jaime Lannister (so handsome), Jon Snow, and Daenerys. I'm still a little unsure about how old Emilia Clarke, the actress playing Daenerys, looks (though she does look good), but still I think I was most intrigued by the footage of her part of the story. It's all going to be awesome.

The TV series will premiere on HBO in April 2011. It looks like they're doing an amazing job. I can't wait.