Monday, January 31, 2011

Dramamine packaging...

Not knowing how my body will react to being on the ship for my research cruise, I bought myself a selection of seasickness medication: generic Walmart brand dramamine, non-drowsy brand Dramamine, and a weird oil that I'm supposed to put behind my ear. I also bought candied ginger, since that's supposed to help nausea as well.

In preparation for tomorrow, I decided to open the non-drowsy Dramamine to see what's inside. I knew from the label that it only had 8 tablets, but considering the size of the container I figured they'd be...bigger. Here's what I saw when I opened the bottle:

Hard to get perspective from that shot, so let me lay it out for you:

WTF? This is off to a great start.

Off to sea

Be jealous: I'm going on a cruise! A 10-day, all expenses paid cruise around the Hawaiian islands!

OK, not that kind of cruise. It's a research cruise.

As many of you know I am currently a physical oceanography grad student. While my studies usually involve just me and my computer, locked away in a windowless office, this happens to be a rare occasion (my first, actually...sadly) where I get to do field research. And in this case, that research is on a boat! For 10 days! I leave tomorrow. Thought it's a distinct possibility, I hope I won't get seasick, because the food on the ship is supposed to be really good. And everyone knows that one of the main reasons oceanography grad students go on research cruises is for the free food, so it would be a shame if I couldn't enjoy it.

I will have internet access on the ship, but it will be limited, so I don't expect to be writing new posts while I'm on the research cruise (though I promise to report anything interesting when I get back). Luckily, I've planned ahead and put together a series of posts for you while I'm away: lots and lots of pretty photos (ooooh!). First, some photos of Hawaii that I took in December when my college roommate was visiting, including some of my best snorkeling photos yet (multiple, clear pictures of an octopus--not that wimpy fleeting octopus from my Sharks Cove video). After that, it gets even better: a few choice photos that the Housemate has taken in Antarctica! Glaciers, a leopard seal, humpback whale, and of course, penguins!

I hope you like them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Twitter poem

I posted this silly poem in pieces on Twitter, but Twitter's lack of line breaks and backwards chronological display of tweets kind of messed up its form. So here it is, in all its glory.

I see it
everywhere and nowhere.
Countless times has it been there
useless, in my way.
I search all of the memories
but each leads me astray.
I try to sort through them all
these scattered fragments.
How can I find the most recent
the most relevant image?
Now that I finally seek it
it has abandoned me.
Where is my frakking raincoat?

I don't know what came over me. It's a raincoat that fits in a pouch, you see, so it's easier to lose than one that I would just hang in the closet. Searching my room is boring, so I found myself composing in my head. It's weird and messy in there.

Apologies to those who already saw this nonsense on Twitter.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award!

I recently received the Stylish Blogger Award from The Princess of Confessions of a Geek Princess. She's an awesome geek girl who posts deliciously geeky photos and videos, plus comments on all sorts of geeky subjects.

For this award, I'm supposed to share seven things about myself then award it to some other worthy bloggers. In honor of the "stylish" part of the award, and because I'm at a loss when things are too open ended, I'll list seven things about myself related to my style (I use the term loosely, you will see).

1. I love wearing long skirts. I have quite a good collection, so it's a shame that I don't get much opportunity to wear them, especially now that I'm in Hawaii and it's too hot for long skirts most of the time.

2. I know you're generally not supposed to mix silver and gold jewelry, but I always wear both, because of two pieces of jewelry that have great sentimental value to me: a gold necklace (small gold bead on a fine gold chain), and a silver ring with a moonstone.

3. I don't wear makeup or nail polish. I always wear chapstick, though.

4. In college, I worked at Ann Taylor. I actually didn't know what Ann Taylor was when my mom told me that they were hiring and I should apply, but thanks to the employee discount, I now own a lot of Ann Taylor clothes. I still buy them (on sale), now that I've gotten a taste for it.

5. I wish that full-length cloaks would come back in style. Not that I could wear them in Hawaii anyway, but still. They may not be practical, but they look so awesome billowing behind you.

6. I'm much lazier with my outfits now than I was in high school. Back then I used to wear cute socks (with things like sparkly fireflies, or pigs), quirky jewelry that always matched my outfit, assorted scarves, and I would style my hair in different ways. Now it's just pants, shirt, maybe a pair of earrings if I think of it, and hair loose. But I am always careful to match my flip-flops with my outfit.

7. I have on occasion worn the same pair of pants two days in a row. Like, uh, yesterday and today. I try not to wear them three days in a row. But I can't say it never happens. This may be more of a hygiene issue than a style issue... TMI Thursday!

And now to pass this award onto a few more stylish bloggers. Note to winners: Feel no pressure to follow the "rules" or do any follow up to your receipt of this award. I have no expectations :)

Tabs A. Geek of Geeky Ambiguous Me - Geeky girl who writes often touching posts about her personal life from her wonderfully geeky perspective.
Angela of Lariats and Lavender - Geeky gamer who writes about her life and interests and sometimes even her shares her style.
Kimolisa of Kimolisa Was Here - She posts insightful and/or amusing videos and pictures, fashion photos with commentary, and even some of her own designs.

P.S. I just noticed that my current blogger profile photo has me in a long Ann Taylor skirt. What did I say?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Walking with my iPod nano

Today marks the first day that I walked to work listening to music. For Christmas, the Housemate got me a 6th generation iPod nano, a tiny little square with a color Multi-Touch screen (I assume this can touch it more than once?). I actually had no idea they made iPods like it until I opened it. It's beautiful. It is my first mp3 player--my first music-playing device (other than a computer) since the Discman I got in--what--1998? Somehow I never got into the culture of always having portable music on hand. I guess I figured I had music in my head.

But now I have an iPod, and while I was happy to use it to block out ambient sounds on the airplane, I was hesitant to listen to it while walking to work. I always liked listening to the sounds of the world: the birds, the cars, the people talking, leaves rustling in the wind. When you have earbuds in, you don't know what you're missing. You might not hear your sister calling your name behind you, and as a result, end up locked in a room with her when you're about to turn into a werewolf and are sure to eat her! Or maybe a hot guy/girl will hear the song you're listening to, compliment you on your taste in music, thus causing you to fall madly in love with him/her only to have him/her reject you, sending you into months of utter misery and depression. See? I know how dangerous listening to music while you walk around can be.*

Luckily my journey today seems to have been uneventful--no werewolves or broken hearts. A few thoughts that occurred to me while walking and listening:

- I need to change my playlists. I have on my iPod songs that I like, but I need lists for certain moods, and certain purposes. Walking to work requires something upbeat to get me pumped, or at least something optimistic. I don't need an Evanescence song to make me despair about life on my way to work, or I'll never make it.

- I was standing at an intersection, cars going in four directions, people crossing every which way, as "Same Direction" by Hoobastank played. We're all going in the same direction... Mildly amusing.

- I really hope people walking around me can't hear that the Spice Girls just came on. What? Seriously, I do not remember putting that on my playlist. I swear!

- I'd forgotten how much I love Ewan McGregor. Elephant Love Song Medley is the best. Though I can totally sing as well as Nicole Kidman.

The verdict: I liked walking to work with my iPod. The Housemate said he was a little worried about getting it for me (he was so cute: "I hope you like it..."), because he knew it wasn't something I'd get for myself. But that can be one of the great things about gifts, getting something you didn't realize you wanted. Walking with the iPod felt a bit like having a personal soundtrack, though they need to make it automatically change to suit the situation. It was like being in a movie. Another thought:

- I need to download "Suddenly I See" so I can be Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. Any other good walking to work songs?

Still, I feel a little wary about joining this culture of youth disconnected from the immediate world around them. But I guess that's just an old-fashioned stereotype. I'd better be careful, though; next thing you know, I'll be texting everywhere I go.

* P.S. What do people think of the new American version of Being Human? No spoilers--I still haven't seen the second part of the pilot. And I understand I have to check out the original British version.
Also, (500) Days of Summer was such a great movie. Highly, highly recommended.

P.P.S. The picture is from the Apple site. Mine is blue.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Academy Award Nominations 2011!

I haven't talked about the movie awards season so far this year--I guess other things have been on my mind (I usually talk about the Golden Globes). But that ends today! The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning. Pretty exciting, but really there were relatively few surprises.

The King's Speech led the pack with 12 nominations, but other top nominees included True Grit with 10 nods and The Social Network and Inception with eight each. All four received nominations for best picture along with 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, and Winter's Bone. These nominees almost match exactly the PGA nominees, with the exception of The Town, which the Academy exchanged for Winter's Bone. The Social Network and The King's Speech are the front-runners in this category, as The Social Network has gathered the most wins so far (including the Golden Globe), but The King's Speech just won the PGA award this past weekend. This is the second year in a row that ten best picture nominees have been selected, instead of five. I have to say I like it, since it gives less traditional Oscar bait, such as sci-fi (last year's District 9, this year's Inception) and animation (last year's Up, this year's Toy Story 3) a chance in the category. They are worthy movies as well, but I would guess that they would not have been nominated if there were only five nominees.

The directors receiving Oscar nominations were Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan, Joel and Ethan Cohen for True Grit, David Fincher for The Social Network, Tom Hooper for The King's Speech, and David O. Russel for The Fighter. I have to say that I was disappointed that Christopher Nolan did not get a nomination for Inception, as he did for the DGA Awards (the Cohen brothers did not get a DGA nomination this year). It was my favorite movie of the year, and I thought Nolan's direction was innovative enough to deserve a nomination here. But at least it was nominated for best picture and original screenplay.

The acting nominations held a few surprises, deviating from the SAG nominees in three cases: Javier Bardem (Biutiful) was nominated for the lead actor Oscar alongside Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Colin Firth (King's Speech), James Franco (127 Hours), and Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network) in place of Robert Duvall (Get Low); Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) got an Oscar nod for lead actress along with Annette Bening (Kids Are All Right), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), and Natalie Portman (Black Swan), while Hilary Swank (Conviction) was left out; and Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) was nominated for the supporting actress Oscar with Amy Adams (The Fighter), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter (King's Speech), and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), where Mila Kunis (Black Swan) had received the SAG nod. Christian Bale (The Fighter), John Hawkes (Winter's Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (Kids Are All Right), and Geoffrey Rush (King's Speech) are the nominees for the supporting acting Oscar, as they are for the SAG award.

Whew, sorry for that dense paragraph. There were only three nominees for best animated feature this year (the number of eligible films was just short of the minimum required for there to be five nominees). Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon got two of the slots as predicted, and The Illusionist received the third, as some had speculated but was not a sure thing (Despicable Me had received the third PGA nomination).

I think the biggest surprise was that Waiting for Superman failed to receive a nomination at all in the feature documentary category, as it just won the PGA award in that category. I had to read the list three times before I was certain it wasn't there. I'm not disappointed, since my impression was that it was overrated (a bit of controversy came up when it was discovered that a key scene was staged, though maybe that's a small thing and other documentaries do it too and just don't get caught). I've perhaps a slight bias against the film having happily gone to public school and having a mother who taught in public school, though just because they neglect to include important established facts that might contradict or complicate their message doesn't necessarily make it a bad documentary, just a one-sided one. I did like The Cove, after all, and it was certainly one sided and probably left out some details that the opposing side would have liked to include. Anyway, I was hoping Waiting for Superman wouldn't win, but I was still very surprised to see it not nominated.

You can find the full list of nominees here, among other places.

The lesson I take away from these nominations is that I need to see more movies. I feel like I've seen a lot this year, but I've seen less than half of the best picture nominees, and I haven't seen all the visual effects nominees (Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter 7, Hereafter, Inception, and Iron Man 2), which makes me worse off than I was last year. But I have seen four of the ten best picture nominees, as well as three of the five nominees for visual effects, cinematography, sound mixing, and score. So I'm not totally hopeless, but those aren't considered the "major" categories.

I hope that Natalie Portman wins for Black Swan. Annette Bening was delightful in a nuanced role, but Natalie Portman blew me away. I hope that Inception wins some gold, particularly best original screenplay (though it's competing against The Kids Are All Right, again, which I thought was wonderful). I don't think it has a chance in best picture, but with nominations in cinematography, art direction, original score, sound mixing, sound editing, and visual effects, hopefully it will be able to pick up a few. Beyond that, though, I sadly haven't seen enough films to have a strong--or informed--opinion. Still, I look forward to seeing more movies on these lists, and to finding out the winners. The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, February 27.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Photos from my flight back to Honolulu

On my flight back to Honolulu after Christmas, I had one layover, in Chicago. The flight from Chicago to Honolulu wasn't very pleasant. It was about 8.5 hours long, and they only served us drinks twice in those 8.5 hours, which I thought was very skimpy. I was parched by the end, and I had even brought along my own bottle of water from the airport, which I was forced to ration over the course of the flight. American Airlines. Serving you dry lips and dehydration headaches.

But I did have a window seat, and the flight across the country offered some lovely aerial scenes.

This is a fun optical phenomenon called a glory. The plane is between the sun and the clouds, allowing us to see the rainbow-like glory, but it also casts its shadow over the middle of it.

Snowy peaks. I don't know where this was--somewhere between Chicago and the California coast.

Frosty brown earth

Placid blue lake. At least it seems placid from this altitude.

I was wondering where we'd hit the west coast, but my question was easily answered once we got there. Just about the only coastal California landmark I could easily identify went right by my window: the Golden Gate Bridge. The photo cuts it off, but that line of clouds continues, extending San Francisco's famous fog over the land to the northeast. I guess we were lucky the bridge was visible.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Full set of chopstick lightsabers

Also among my many geeky Christmas presents were three pairs of lightsaber chopsticks. I already had three of the current six available styles: Luke (blue), Darth Vader, and Yoda. So for Christmas I got the remaining three: Luke (green), Mace Windu, and Darth Maul. Here's the whole collection:

My favorite has to be the Darth Maul pair. "But Darth Maul had the double-bladed lightsaber (at least until Obi Wan broke it)," you say. Luckily, the wonderful makers of the chopsabers thought that, too.

Magnets! No, you can't very well use them as chopsticks when they're stuck together like that, and they even risk attracting each other while you try to eat with them. But it's worth it, just for the pleasure of putting the ends together and discovering that they stick.

They're pricey for a pair of chopsticks, but totally worth it (if you're inclined toward that sort of thing). I highly recommend them. You can buy them as individual chopstick pairs at ThinkGeek, or in pairs of chopstick pairs (slightly cheaper in bulk, and they include chopstick rests) at Amazon by searching for "lightsaber chopsticks".

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jedi Bear vs. Wampa

One of my lovely geeky Christmas presents this year was a wampa plush from Star Wars Celebration V (still available on ThinkGeek). When I brought him back home, he became best friends with the Jedi Bear my boyfriend gave me before leaving for Antarctica. Now, I know Luke wasn't dressed in Jedi robes when he faced the wampa, but I couldn't resist putting this photo shoot together.

Use the Force, Jedi Bear.

En garde!


Jedi Bear disables the wampa.

No hard feelings.

No wampas were (permanently) harmed in the making of these photos.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Home for Christmas (catch-up post)

I was really lazy about blog posts during Christmas break, so I never talked about going home to New England for Christmas (though I did mention it in my recent post about the Housemate). I'm a little uncertain whether or not to call it "home", actually. It is a house that I lived in for 5 years, plus college, and I still have my bedroom there largely intact as I left it. But my new home is in Hawaii, and it is more mine, more my own (I am paying the rent, after all). It was funny, though: when I scheduled my round-trip flight for the holidays, I went to write into my calendar under December 22 "Fly home", and then under January 7 "Fly...home." I guess I can have two homes. And certainly in terms of the phrase "home for the holidays," I think "home" means where your family (especially parents) is, especially if you lived there in the past.

In any case, I had a very nice and relaxing two weeks at my parents' house, with my two brothers and our old dog, along with my parents, of course. I was actually kind of shut in. There was one day that we went into Chinatown for dim sum, then went to an art museum. The story of what happened in between is worth complaining about: It was the day after Christmas, a Sunday, and starting to snow. A blizzard would be coming that evening. We'd already paid for our parking near Chinatown, and my dad was worried about finding parking near the museum, and how much it would cost. He said it was only a 15 minute walk, so we walked. It was more like 25 minutes, and it was cold (20-ish), especially since the museum was right on the water, with bitterly cold winds rushing in off of the harbor into our faces. I hadn't even brought my trusty hat, since I hadn't thought it would be necessary; brunch and then a museum--no outdoor activity! When we finally got to the museum, we found lots of available street parking--which was free, because it was Sunday. Dad was in the doghouse.

But the dim sum and the museum, at least, were both good (and warm). One of my favorite displays at the museum was this large display box attached to the wall. The walls and floor of the box inside were mirrors, and it contained silver(y) vessels of many different shapes (tall, thin, short, squat, different curvatures, etc.), so it was full of reflections, including those distorted by reflecting off the curved vessels. The window into the box, though, was a one-way mirror--like looking in on an interrogation room. So you could see infinite reflections of the vessels (and reflections in the vessels), but you couldn't see yourself in the reflections. Another funny display at the museum was a short (2-minute or so) movie of a guy going into a supermarket and shooting his food with a bow and arrow before putting it in his cart. The cashier lady even rang it all in with the arrows sticking out.

The only other real outing I had while at home was to another museum, this one in Salem--but not about witches. We went to the Peabody-Essex Museum (both Peabody and Essex are towns in Massachusetts, so I have no idea why this museum is in Salem) to see items from the Qianlong Garden in the Forbidden City. It's very rare that such items are taken out of the Forbidden City, so this was a very special exhibit. This emperor who had made (or at least ordered the making of) the garden (really a collection of buildings furnished and decorated with beautiful, expensive things, with lovely gardens in between them) ruled at a time when China was particularly wealthy, so he had some very fine things in his collection. My favorite piece may be a wall hanging of a nature scene, set on wood but with many materials, where the water was made of lapis, the grass of malachite, the tree leaves of jade, etc. Beautiful.

Anyway, aside from those two trips, most of the time I just spent at home. All of our dinner parties we hosted--not sure how that worked out, but that's how it was. I did enjoy staying cozy in my long sweater-coat and fuzzy slippers, never far from a hot cup of tea. We played Dominion (really fun card game), watched DVDs, played with the dog, ate good food, drank tea and hot chocolate, and talked. It was very relaxing. If only I never had to return to work. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.

I couldn't take any photos in the museums, unfortunately, but here are some photos from home.

My dad mixed some pomegranate cosmopolitans, garnished with lime for Christmas Eve. Chosen because of the festive colors, of course.

Not the best photo, but it was the best salad. My mom made warm goat cheese filo pastries to go with the mixed baby greens. I'm a big fan of goat cheese, and warm goat cheese is just heaven.

I think I randomly snapped this photo just to test how a photo would come out in that lighting without the camera's flash, as we were about to take a group photo (answer: way too dark). But something about it seems so cozy to me.

Christmas morning, one of my mom's stocking stuffers sniffs out our breakfast fruit plate. Yes, it's a wind-up nose. Not sure why.

My puppy Ele (we pronounce it "Ellie", though it's from Hawaiian so if we're being more correct it's "Eh-Leh"), wearing a big red Christmas bow, has just opened her present. It's a spam musubi (popular Hawaiian snack) squeaky toy (the white part is rice, the pink is the spam, and the black is the seaweed wrapped around it, kind of like sushi). Ele loves opening presents and getting new toys. She's actually 14 years old, but still a puppy to me.

Tail-wagging action. She's so happy. Squeaking the toy is fun!

Two days after Christmas, we had a thick fresh coating of snow.

This is after snow-blowing and shoveling, of course. The circular driveway is perfect for drop-off/pick-up for the preschool my mom has on our bottom floor, but it's a pain when it snows.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What's up for 2011: Movies

What movies am I looking forward to this year?

March 18
I got excited about this one when I first read about it back in summer 2009. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play two sci-fi fanatics on a road trip who happen to run into an alien, Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen. The cast includes Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, and Sigourney Weaver. As I said before, this sounds like just about the perfect comedy for me.

Sucker Punch
March 25
Emily Browning plays a girl locked up in a mental institution who imagines a fantasy world in which she and some other girls there embark on a quest to free themselves. The worlds of fantasy and reality blur together. These girls kick a lot of butt, and the movie looks amazing.

Your Highness
April 8
James Franco plays a dashing prince on a quest to save his kidnapped bride (Zooey Deschanel), accompanied by his lazy brother (Danny McBride). Along the way they meet an archer maiden played by Natalie Portman. Sounds promising.

May 6
Another Marvel superhero adaptation leading up to the Avengers movie, this one stars Chris Hemsworth (the guy that made you cry--and by you, I mean at least me--at the beginning of Star Trek) as the hammer-wielding hero. Also stars Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins.

Green Lantern
June 17
DC superheroes get their own blockbuster this summer with Ryan Reynolds playing Hal Jordan as a new Green Lantern. He's a charismatic lead, but we'll have to wait to find out if the script and the rest of the movie do the character justice. Few DC heroes beyond Batman have been successful at the box office in the past decade, so here's hoping that Green Lantern can pull it off.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
July 15, 2010
We got Part 1 of the adaptation of the final book in J.K. Rowling's wildly popular series this past fall. While it was good, it left a lot of ground to cover in Part 2. The young actors have matured beautifully, and the finale will be one exciting ride.

Captain America: The First Avenger
July 22
He may be the first Avenger, but he's the last one to get his own movie before team-up movie The Avengers comes out next year. Chris Evans, who is already a Marvel hero (Human Torch), plays the titular hero, while Hugo Weaving plays villain The Red Skull. Marvel is double-teaming the summer with Thor then Captain America. Hopefully both will be amazing, but I'd settle for one awesome and one so-so.

Cowboys & Aliens
July 29
Cowboys & Aliens has the high-concept-right-in-its-title appeal that Snakes on a Plane had. But it looks way cooler (in my opinion). Starring Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, and Harrison Ford, and directed by Jon Favreau, it's basically about what the title promises: What would happen if aliens invaded the wild west? I can't wait to find out.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
December 16
J.J. Abrams stays on as a producer in another Mission: Impossible, but this one stars Josh Holloway and is directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles). It's an exciting formula, so hopefully it'll turn out great. It's about time we start seeing Josh Holloway starring on the big screen.

Sherlock Holmes 2
December 16
I really love watching Robert Downey Jr., and Holmes, like Tony Stark, is a great role for him. He and Jude Law return as Holmes and Watson to take on Professor Moriarty in this sequel. I hope it won't follow Iron Man 2 in being disappointing compared to its predecessor.

See io9's more exhaustive list here:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What's up for 2011: TV shows

What new TV shows am I looking forward to in 2011? Well, there aren't many, yet, because most new shows start in the fall, and those shows have yet to be decided. But there are a few shows this winter/spring that I'll be checking out.

The Cape
Premieres January 9 on NBC
Mondays 9/8c
The Cape is about a cop who gets framed for a crime he didn't commit, fakes his death (at least, lets people think he's dead), then gets trained by circus performers to do neat little tricks to help him become a masked hero. He takes the name The Cape from a comic book series his son loves, then proceeds to clean up the city of its crime and corruption. This one already premiered, and I haven't exactly heard great things about it. It's too bad, too, because it has Summer Glau, and I like her a lot. I'll at least check out the pilot, then decide whether to keep watching.

Premieres April 1 on Starz
Fridays 10/9c
"Camelot" is a gritty, more "real" retelling of Arthurian legend. It has an impressive cast, including Joseph Fiennes, Eva Green, and Claire Forlani. I do enjoy Arthurian legend (I like watching "Merlin", which I guess one could say is the kiddie version of what "Camelot" will be), so I'll definitely check this one out.

Game of Thrones
Premieres April 17 on HBO
I've talked about this one before here. George R. R. Martin' A Song of Ice and Fire series is one of the most respected fantasy series out there, and this adaptation looks great from what footage and photos I've seen. HBO has been doing some pretty awesome stuff lately (Boardwalk Empire, True Blood), and I can't think of a better network for this series. Don't watch the show if you're looking for something to lighten your mood. This is a dark fantasy tale of murder, politics, intrigue, and tragedy. But it's a really great, engrossing story. It's going to be good.

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome
Some time? on SyFy
I'm not actually sure when this one is coming out, but I assume it's some time this year. Anyway, "Blood & Chrome" will focus on a 20-something William Adama as a fighter pilot in the First Cylon War. After Caprica's unfortunate cancellation, SyFy is hoping that more people will tune into a more space battle-y Battlestar Galactica prequel. First SyFy will air a two-hour Blood & Chrome movie, much like Razor and The Plan. Assuming it's successful, there's a whole series hoping to follow. I miss "Caprica" a lot, but I'm willing to give "Blood & Chrome" a try, too. I hope it lives up to its promise.

See more fantasy and sci-fi shows (including returning shows) here:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What's up for 2011: Games

The new year brings anticipation and excitement for new releases. So what games am I looking forward to this year?

Dragon Age II
, March 8
I really enjoyed playing Dragon Age: Origins. It introduced a new, exciting, dark fantasy world, populated it with some interesting and entertaining characters, and gave a satisfying quest to complete. The sequel Dragon Age II will be set in a different region of the same world. The player character is named Hawke and can be either female or male, very much like Shepard in the Mass Effect series. My impression with Dragon Age II is that it will be like DAO but made to be more like Mass Effect 2. I thought Mass Effect 2 was one of the best games ever, but I liked DAO as well, so I just hope they don't destroy too many of the elements that made DAO special. In any case, I have this one on pre-order. I haven't had a new game since the summer, so I'm very excited.

Portal 2, April 18
I came late to Portal, only playing it last year after Steam offered it for free. Was that the best buy ever or what? It was unique, challenging, addicting, funny, and very entertaining...but also very short, the sort of thing you complete in one afternoon (the challenges can keep you occupied for longer, if you like, but it's not as much fun as the normal game). Portal 2 will be a full-length game, with new challenges, new elements, and a two-player cooperative mode which will add a new dimension of fun. I can't wait.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, June 16
I'm expecting this to be the game that finally gets me hooked on an MMO. I might quit my job to devote more time to it. Just kidding. Mostly. I played the first two Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games, and I loved them. I was hoping for a KotOR 3 to finish out the series, but instead BioWare took it in a different direction with this MMO. While initially disappointed (and still a little bitter), I've been following this game closely, and it looks so amazing that I think I can forgive them. The scope of this game is huge, with eight character classes with their own stories, companions, and quests. The dialogue is fully voiced, including the player characters. The game will retain the same awesome characteristics that are signatures of BioWare (e.g. engrossing story, tough choices that matter, interesting and lovable companions), all while being an MMO, with what is sure to be an exciting community. It's going to be awesome.

Games that may or may not come out in Q4 2011
Game developers can get optimistic about when they'll be able to release their games. Frequently, the games get pushed back a number of times. While it's frustrating for us fans, it's better than having them release a messy buggy game. Some of these will likely be released this year, but probably not all of them.

Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 2 was a superb game, but as soon as it finished I was anxious for a sequel to close the trilogy. While I'll be sad to see the saga end when Mass Effect 3 comes out, I'm also extremely excited to play it and see where it leads. It will be particularly interesting to see how the story picks up after Mass Effect 2, given the huge numbers of variables that were decided by the player in the first two games. It will take some careful planning and clever execution, but I have no doubt the Mass Effect team will be able to pull it off beautifully.

While I'll definitely have Mass Effect 3 on pre-order, this one I may wait to hear the reception of before I purchase a copy. It's an online multiplayer RPG centered around the city of Neverwinter, of the D&D Forgotten Realms. I enjoyed Neverwinter Nights (by BioWare) and Neverwinter Nights 2 (by Obsidian), so hopefully Cryptic Studios will do a good job with this one.

Guild Wars 2
My brother convinced me to play Guild Wars with him as a placeholder between the shutdown of Hellgate: London's online multiplayer capabilities and...whatever new thing came along that he wanted to play with me (turned out that new thing would be Borderlands). He then abandoned me three missions before the end of the main campaign, which I'm pretty bitter about (I finished all by myself). I love the look of the sequel, at least, and hopefully the game will be better in many ways (not that the first one was bad, but there's always room for improvement). This one I'll also probably wait before buying.

Diablo III
Yeah, they haven't even bothered trying to announce a release date for this one. But a girl can dream, right? Diablo II was awesome, and they've taken their sweet time developing this sequel, so I can only assume that it will be even more awesome. I like what I've seen so far.

Monday, January 10, 2011

One month left...

The Housemate, aka my boyfriend, comes back from Antarctica in one month. Hopefully this last month will go faster than the first two.

Most of the time since he left, I've found myself missing him terribly. In the past couple months, I've been sad about various things, which makes me think how nice it would be to have the Housemate here to comfort me. Except for the five days when my friend was visiting me, and the two weeks when I was at my parents' for winter break, I've been pretty lonely in my house here in Honolulu. Every day I would get to school late, because I wanted to talk to him so long in the morning, and then leave school early, because I wanted to talk to him before he went to bed (7 hour time difference). While at school, I would take every opportunity I had to chat with him, or play Scrabble with him on Facebook. It wasn't very good for my work productivity.

Furthermore, I was sad because I felt so lonely and bored, all while the Housemate was exploring Antarctica, doing exciting things that few people get to do, seeing things few people get to see, taking great photos and videos, making new friends, eating great food, playing in a band. He never had as much time to chat as I did. I was happy for him, but sometimes I just wanted my boyfriend to come back and be mine again.

Winter break was different. I was home with my parents and my two brothers, doing family stuff. I adore my brothers, and we don't get to see each other very often, so I cherish all the time I get to spend with them. We played games, hung out, talked, cooked, had dinner parties, celebrated the holidays. I had much less time to talk to the Housemate than I did at home in Honolulu. To make matters worse, I didn't want my family to be able to hear me talk to the Housemate, so most of the time when we were video chatting, I typed instead of talked. He could still see me on the video, but it's not quite as personal as hearing someone's voice. The internet connection at my parents' house is slow, so the video was frequently freezing, making our conversations more frustrating. And I gave a priority to events happening at home; I did my best to find a free moment to talk to the Housemate, but sometimes I'd be called down for dinner, or a game, or whatever, and I'd have to say goodbye.

The whole situation frustrated the Housemate, understandably. Now I was the one having fun doing other things, finding little time to spend with him. One time after I abruptly left a conversation with him because I was called down for dinner, he wrote a sad email to me saying how marginal I was making him feel (yes, he's a sensitive type, which is mostly wonderful but sometimes tough). It was good that he told me, but it made me feel awful to know that I was making him feel like that. This awful feeling was followed, however, by a slight resentment of his neediness. For two months I had felt lonely and sad while he went off and did fun things, and now that I was the one with fun things to do, he was whining to me about how it made him feel neglected. I began to focus on all the things (actually not very many) that I wish were different about him. I started to think that maybe he's not the right one for me. He's a great boyfriend, but could I ever seriously marry him? Have his children? These thoughts ate away at me, putting me off him, and I resented some of the time we were spending together in video chats. He seemed too needy. And there were other things that I'd rather be doing.

The resentment only lasted a few days, though. He really is wonderful in so many ways. Sure, he has a couple flaws, but I don't really believe that everyone has one perfect soul mate, so I won't cast him aside because he's not absolutely perfect. I have some doubts, but I can push them to the back of my brain. Right now, I just love having a boyfriend, more than I thought I would back before I'd ever had one. I love having someone adore me, tell me I'm beautiful and sweet. I love snuggling, and having someone warm and gentle there next to me when I'm sleeping. I love having someone who will listen to me, be happy when I'm happy, and comfort me when I'm sad. I love having someone who loves to cook for me. He does all of these things and more. He really is a great boyfriend.

I miss him a ton. Every time we sign off video chat, I wish we could stay longer. I can't wait for him to come back. I mean--I can wait, I will wait. I just wish I didn't have to. Here's hoping that the month will fly by fast, and that everything will be better when he gets back.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A thousand blackbirds fall

Warning: Totally random news story.

My brother and I were in the kitchen when we heard our mom react to a news article she was reading: "What?! A thousand blackbirds in Arkansas mysteriously died and fell out of the sky on New Year's Eve?!!!" My brother and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised, for a couple seconds before we burst out laughing. We were both thinking, naturally, of last year's TV show FlashForward, in which one of the clues the characters uncovered in their quest to learn the cause of the blackout (a worldwide loss of consciousness for 2 minutes and 17 seconds) was an earlier incident of thousands of black birds--crows, I believe--falling out of the sky. This real-life event seemed uncomfortably close to the events of the TV show, and we immediately became concerned for the safety of our upcoming flights home (in the FlashForward blackouts, millions died from accidents, such as plane crashes, that occurred while everyone was unconscious).

Well, it turns out most of the birds that died were red-winged blackbirds, not crows, and this was in Arkansas, after all, not Somalia, so we're probably safe from the FlashForward conspiracy. But current estimates put the number of dead birds from 4,000 to 5,000, and we still don't know why they all fell out of the sky at the same time over Beebe, Arkansas. Lightning or high-altitude hail have been presented as possible causes, though many birds have been taken in for testing to determine the true cause of the deaths.

Further adding to the bizarreness of the story, just 125 miles from Beebe 100,000 dead drum fish were found floating in a 20 mile stretch of the Arkansas River last week. Due to the fact that almost all of the dead fish were the same species, disease is the expected cause of the fishes' deaths. Tests are being conducted to figure out what sort of disease it was.

All these mass deaths in close proximity at nearly the same time is pretty disturbing. This could totally be the start of a creepy movie. Here's hoping it ends there, they solve the mysteries, and it all goes down as a weird coincidence. I don't see why that wouldn't be the case, but the FlashForward fan in the back of my head (forgotten since last spring) is half hoping something awesome will follow.

News story can be found on many sources, but in honor of FlashForward I will direct you to ABC.

Edit 1/4/11: Apparently, the cause of the birds' deaths was a storm. So they say...
Edit 1/5/11: Or I guess it was fireworks.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

Wow, it's already another new year. The last two months may have seemed slow to me, but the year as a whole has flown by, as all recent years seem to have as well.

I hadn't even thought about new year's resolutions until today. I'd kind of forgotten about them. So here are some quick thoughts on what I should be resolving to do this new year.

I guess my main resolution will be to be a better grad student. I will try not to search blogs and follow links endlessly when I'm supposed to be working on my research. And then console myself about how much time I've been wasting when I should have been working by reading through the archives of PhD Comics. Basically...I need to do less web surfing. I apologize if that means I won't see all of you as often, but I have to remember to tend to my real life as well as my virtual one.

My second resolution will be to read more. I have several series that I need to catch up on, plus other books that I've been meaning to read for a while. High on the list are the two most recent Wheel of Time books, the rest of A Song of Ice and Fire, and Miranda Mayer's Tinna's Promise (I got it for Christmas ;) There are also a couple non-fiction things and a couple poetry collections that I've wanted to get around to at some point, but we'll see what I'm in the mood for whenever I find a bit of free time. At least some of this reading will get done this year. This resolution, at least, is a fun one.

After that, I don't know what else to make a resolution for, other than to get a hold of my life and figure out what I'm doing with it. But that's always a goal, really, so it's not exactly something that needs a resolution itself. What am I doing with my boyfriend, what am I doing in grad school, what changes do I need to make in my life to make me happy, or feel like I'm headed in the right direction? *Sigh.* It may be too much to hope for a miracle year, but on New Year's Day, anything seems like it just might be possible.

Best wishes for a happy new year!