Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Applying to Graduate School

FemaleScienceProfessor discussed graduate school applications today. Because I am a digital packrat (oh fine, I'm a material pack rat as well), I still have all of my undergraduate papers in a file neatly marked "undergraduate". Within that file, next to all of the papers I wrote for my undergraduate degree in English Literature, I found my graduate school application essay. And you know what? It's good. I wrote a damn good essay for getting into graduate school. I discussed relevant, challenging courses, summer research experiences, extra-curricular activities that had a direct bearing on what I wanted to do. Fine, what I actually settled on for my dissertation is absolutely nothing like what I said I wanted to do, but that's more because the school that I decided on doesn't really have a program for what I really wanted to do.

When I applied to programs, I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist. Unfortunately, there are tons of young, eager undergraduates who are enamoured by the court system, don't want to go to law school or medical school, and fall into applications for forensic anthropology. All of the universities I applied to with big forensic programs were likely inundated with strong applicants for very few spots. This is perhaps why I was turned down for all of those schools. I applied to several other schools with weaker forensic programs, but excellent overall programs in anthropology/primatology/paleontology/osteology/biology/etc. I tailored my application letter slightly differently with these programs, and I was accepted into all of them (I think - hard to remember now).

I could have done a masters degree and tried for the forensic stuff again, but I went for a Ph.D. program with a less specialized program instead. And now I do nothing having anything at all to do with forensic anthropology. Was this a good decision? Only time will tell.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Slow Cooker: Try #1

I am a lazy cook. So I bought a crock pot, friend to all lazy cooks. Here is the first recipe I am trying!


* 2-1/2 lbs. boneless beef top round steak I used chicken
* 1 onion, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
* 1 oz. envelope fajita seasoning mix
* 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1" pieces
* 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1" pieces
* 1/4 cup flour
* 1/4 cup water

Trim excess fat from beef and cut into 2" pieces. Combine with onion in a 3-4 quart slow cooker. Mix together fajita seasoning mix (either purchased or your own homemade) and undrained tomatoes and pour over beef.

Combine flour with water in a small bowl and stir well to mix. Add gradually to crockpot and stir well. Cover slow cooker and cook on high for 15-20 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally. Serve stew with hot cooked rice or hot couscous. 8 servings

Friday, January 25, 2008

Letters of Recommendation

I read Female Science Professor's post about writing letters of recommendation. I posted a comment that got long, so I thought I would take the discussion here.

Unlike a lot of university, as a graduate student I am more than a T.A. I am the actual course instructor and considered to be adjunct faculty. No one supervises me; my class is entirely at my discretion. I choose my own book, my own syllabus, and I give out all of my own grades. Thus, I regularly get requests to write recommendation letters from my students. I don't get a ton of them - maybe two or three at the end of every year. Usually the students who ask for recommendations are trying to get into medical or dental school, and I think they select me because I teach a science based course. In many cases, I probably teach the only science based course these students have ever taken.

Two things have always mystified me in this whole process. First, I have gotten requests for letters from students who did not do well in my class. Why would you ask me for a recommendation if you just barely pulled a C in my class? At first, I felt a sick obligation to somehow find something good they did in my class, play it up, and send in a positive letter. Now, I just tell them that they would be better served by talking to a different professor, preferably one who gave them an "A". But even more mystifying, sometimes these letter requests are followed my long personal missives, where they tell me everything that has happened from birth. I have heard about abusive family members, family members in jail, long term medical problems, deadbeat baby-daddies and any number of other totally irrelevant things that, quite frankly, make me a little uncomfortable. I am certainly not going to reference these things in a letter of recommendation. These students would be better served by giving me a copy of their resume and a transcript.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

When the snooze button becomes obsolete.

The scene: I am lying in bed, sleeping. My kitten is curled up in a little ball next to the wall on the other side of me.

The alarm goes off.

The cat wakes up, uses her super-powered spring loaded legs, jumps over me, lands on the floor, runs over to the cupboard where I keep her cat food and immediately begins to yowl for food.

Yeah. Happy morning to me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I might not always agree with Hillary, but dammit, a woman CAN win!

Friday, January 18, 2008


I have flown away and am back on the left coast. And damn it's cold! I've lived on the east coast for ten years and every time I leave California I question my previous decisions. It was sixty degrees! Now I'm in a scarf!

But nothing was worse than when I flew from Johannesburg to New York last February. When the plane took off, it was 80 degrees. When it landed it was eight degrees. And since there was a freakish heat wave in NYC before I left in January, I didn't have a coat, scarf, gloves, hat, long sleeved shirt or close toed shoes. Now that was cold.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Soulja Boy

This morning I saw Soulja Boy on "Regis and Kelly" singing the song "Crank dat". I've heard this song many times and every time I think - what the hell is he actually singing? So, I looked up the lyrics.


Turns out he's not saying much of anything.

Here's one of the verses:

Soulja Boy up in it (OH!)
Watch Me Lean And Watch Me Rock
Super Man Dat (OH!)
Then Watch Me Crank Dat Robocop
Super Fresh, Now Watch Me Jock
Jocking On Them Haterz Man
When I Do Dat Soulja Boy
I Lean To The Left And Crank Dat Dance
(Now You)
I'm Jocking On Yo Bitch Ass
And If We Get The Fightin
Then I'm Cocking On Your Bitch
You Catch Me At Yo Local Party
Yes I Crank It Everyday
Haterz Get Mad Cuz
"I Got Me Some Bathin Apes"

WHAT DOES ANY OF THAT EVEN MEAN?! What happened to songs that mean something? I'm looking forward to some artist covering this song a la The Gourds with Gin and Juice or Eva Cassidy with Straight Out of Compton.

After watching Soulja Boy, hearing the song, and reading the lyrics, I think I like it best in this form:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lensbaby at the Alviso Slough

Track 39

Skin Deep Antiques 2

Ridiculous Politics

Here is Hillary Clinton's statement about Martin Luther King, Jr: "Dr. King's dream began to be realised when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

Okay, what's wrong with this statement? She's not belittling Dr. King - she's stating a FACT. Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act because of pressure of the Civil Rights Movement, led by Dr. King. But King couldn't pass any actual law himself as he was not in a legislative position to do so. All of this argument about this statement is ludicrous.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Socks' Story

Well, it's almost Caterday - and it already is in some parts of the world. So, I give you Socks (alias "Socksy" and "Sockser" and "Fat Malformed Kitty").

You may think that the nickname "Fat Malformed Kitty" is cruel, but it's actually quite descriptive. Socksy is an extreme manx cat. He was as part of one of the many litters of kitten born and bred in my parents backyard. It started with three little orange kittens (Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod), one Mama Cat and a small pie plate of cat food. Soon it became multiple litters of kittens per year, a giant bowl of food and a little cat hut rigged on an old lounge chair. Socks was the only cat of all of the litters of kittens that made the transition between the outside and the inside.

He came in of his own volition and we took him to the vet where the vet was fascinated by his lack of tail. Out of her own curiosity she x-rayed him and it turns out that he is missing all of his caudal vertebrae as well as one and half of his lumbar vertbrae. As a result, his body weight is distributed kind of strangely and when he runs he sort of hops the back feet together. He was a sick little kitten when he wandered in. After we got him all well, we tried to put him back outside but he clawed the edges of the door and refused.

So we kept him.

(More lensbaby)

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I got a lensbaby in the mail today! There's a steep learning curve.

"If I close my eyes, maybe she won't be able to see me."

Backyard jungle. You can see the effect of the "sweet spot" better in this one.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I could write my dissertation OR ...

... I could practice my mad bookbinding skillz!

lighthouse2 lighthouse4 paisley2 paisley greybook5 greybook2 bluebook4 bluebook2 mapbook3 mapbook2



Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Baby Elephant Walk

When I was in Nairobi last summer, I made my second trip to the Sheldrick Animal Orphanage to gawk at the cutest little baby elephants, running around, kicking soccer balls, being fed with bottles. It's a cute overload.

I just got around to sifting through the photos.

Elephant Dust

Crowd Behind Elephants

At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz.

You're thinking - "Oh no they di-in't!"
But yes, they did.

LOLcat Translation of the Bible
. Seriously.

Book #2 and #3: Caliban's Hour and Switcheroo

#2 Caliban's Hour by Tad Williams
fiction, (c)1994, 201pp
rating: ****

In the tradition of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is Dead, this book is a re-telling of Shakespeare by a minor character. In this case, it is a retelling of The Tempest by the Shakespearean sidenote of Caliban, part of the comic relief in The Tempest. The book opens with a confrontation between Caliban and a now-middle-aged Miranda in her castle in Naples. He threatens to kill her after he spends one hour telling him his full story and explaining how she and her father ruined his life. Caliban tells her in his own words about his early childhood on the island with his mother, Sycorax, and describes the arrival of Prospero and Miranda and how their appearance changed his life.

Williams takes Caliban from being the butt of a joke to a thinking, feeling human being who was deeply wronged by the two protagonists of The Tempest. Williams prose is rich and detailed enough to satisfy most readers and in the end, he presents Shakespeare's version with this brief line: We arrived at the house on the hillside at least, to discover the game was played, the story told, and we three by comic afterthoughts..

People familiar with the story would probably appreciate this book more than those with no prior knowledge of The Tempest.

#3 Switcheroo by Olivia Goldsmith
fiction, (c)1998 , 265pp
rating: *

I don't know if it's that I've gotten older, more cynical and more discriminating or if Olivia Goldsmith's writing has fallen down a very slippery slope into the worst kind of chicklit possible. I'd like to think it's the latter as I remember liking The First Wives Club very much when it first came out, as well as Flavor of the Month. So, it was actually with anticipation that I dove into Switcheroo, a book I found collecting dust in our garage.

The plot is a simple one. Sylvie, a successful, forty-year old woman discovers her husband is having an affair with a younger woman. Upon confronting her, she discovers that the younger woman (Marla) is a dead-ringer for a younger version of her. Marla wants to be married and Sylvie wants the romance back. So off the go for a little bit of plastic surgery so they can switch places for two weeks - Marla to secure Bob as her husband, and Sylvie to get back at him.

The premise of this book is awful and ridiculous. It's poorly written. It re-treads themes from her earlier book (plastic surgery to get ahead, husbands having affairs with younger woman) but without any of the subversive aspects that made them better than simple chicklit. This book has the odious character of Sylvie's mother who tells her she'll never find someone better than Bob and not to make waves about his affair. Cheating is seen as an inevitablity in this book, as is the wife's forgiveness. The only wife that didn't forgive her husband for cheating is painted as a shrewish woman that no one could possibly love.

And surprise, surprise - all the women (except the shrew) find their happy endings though not necessarily in the expected way... oh wait, all of the ending was expected for me. I do not recommend this book.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Last night, I saw Michael Moore's most recent documentary called Sicko, about the ways that HMOs and the American health care system are failing Americans every single day. Sicko begins with stories of Americans that are without health care - but Moore quickly tells us that this documentary isn't about the people without health insurance; rather, it's about the people with health insurance. He then devotes the next thirty to forty five minutes visiting with people who were denied health care for themselves or their loved ones because they were deemed not covered under their health care insurance policy. He discusses some of the legislation that has gone on in area of health care reform, and how all of these attempts failed. (Lest you think only Republicans will garner Moore's scorn, he takes a few well-deserved digs at Hillary Clinton as well.) He also discusses the idea of socialized health care, and in the grand tradition of Bowling for Columbine, Moore takes his show on the road. He visits France, Canada and England to talk to patients and doctors in the socialized health care systems in these countries. The movie ends with a dramatic (and probably over-sensationalistic) trip to Cuba with people who helped in the World Trade Center attacks and were then denied proper medical care by the US government for related illnesses (respiratory diseases, post-traumatic stress, and other undisclosed problems).

I feel like it's necessary for me to discuss my feelings about Michael Moore. I love Michael Moore. Ever since my economics teacher my senior year of high school made us all watch Roger and Me, I have eagerly looked forward to each of Michael Moore's movies. Yes, I know he is spreading liberal propoganda - but I'm okay with that, because mostly I agree with him. Yes, he has gotten more and more sensationalistic since his humble Roger and Me beginnings, but his first priority is to entertain and sensationalism sells. And does he skirt around facts sometimes? Oh, sure. But in this day and age, what good media personality doesn't fudge a few facts now and again?

For instance, I know that there was some fast talking about the benefits that new mothers get from the French health care system. Mothers with three or more children get more special favors than those with less because the French government is trying to promote the growth of the natural born French population. I also know that taxes in countries that have socialized health care are far higher than taxes in the United States. He never gave the figure, but for people in the higher income brackets in France, income tax can top out around 58%. I think there are similar figures for Canada and the UK (though I can't be bothered to look it up). Personally, I'm not bothered by that in the slightest, but some of Moore's more moderate viewers would likely pause at that kind of figure. However, not all of Moore's facts are fictionalize, and people from Canada should watch this movie with the smug satisfaction that they will live an average of three years longer than any American. (And Americans looking to go to Canada should look up

All that being said, this movie's message should be non-partisan. Our health care system sucks. It sucks big time. And cancer and the HMOs don't care whether you're a democrat or a republican. They don't care if you're a born again Christian or one of those guys in Berkley whose been sitting in a tree for the last year. Cancer can still get you, and the HMOs will still try to spend the least amount of money possible on your care. And this is the health care system that George Dubya Bush says is, "the best in the world."

I am going to close out this entry with three stories. As anyone who knows me knows, I have traveled a fair amount in the last ten years. I can think of three times I have been seriously ill in the last ten years - once was in the US, once was in Tanzania and once was in Belgium.

Incidence #1 - 2002: I was a senior in college and still covered under my parents' HMO. I woke up one morning with a sore throat. I waited a few days to see if it would go away, and when the condition worsened, I made an appointment to see a doctor. However, in order to see a doctor in this particular HMO, you have to see a nurse practitioner first and get a referral. I saw the NP, she sent me for a throat culture, diagnosed me with strep throat (without seeing the test results) and sent me home with a prescription for omoxycillin. I got a call from the test center a couple of days later saying that I had come up negative for strep throat, but the pills seemed to be working so I ignored the message. 48 hours after the pills ran out, my symptoms came back worse than ever. So, I made a new appointment. I still didn't have a referral, so I had to see another nurse practitioner. She sent me for another strep test, and fast tracked the results. It came up negative. Having two negative strep test in hand, she prescribed me another course of the same antibiotic and sent me on my way. Once that course of treatment was finished, my symptoms came back even worse. I had a fever. It hurt to turn my head. I was feeling numb patches on my face. At that point, I saw a third nurse practitioner who left me in the room while she got advice from an ENT. She diagnosed me with pharyngitis and gave me a course of much stronger antibiotics which finally did the trick. This process took over a month to complete. The total cost was admittedly low - no co-pay to see the NP, so only the cost of the drugs which were subsidized. I think I ended up paying around $30.00 when all was said and done.

Incidence #2 - 2004: On my first trip to Tanzania, I contracted both malaria and giardia at the same time. Yes, it was miserable and yes, I was taking anti-malarials, and yes they were the ones that are 97% effect. I am blessed by being extraordinary in every way. I was uninsured in both America and Tanzania. My doctor's visit was free. My medication was the equivalent of $10 for both ailments. When I left Tanzania, I still felt like I was having residual digestive distress. My consultation with the doctor was $175.00. She ended up not doing any tests at all (because I couldn't afford them) and just wrote me a prescription for a broad spectrum antibiotic based on my description of my symptoms. This cost me another $123.00.

Incidence #3 - 2006: I came down with a horrible flu/food poisoning/something vile in Belgium. At this time, I was insured in the US, but my insurance didn't cover international travel. (As an aside, I am in one of the few graduate programs in the United States that does not provide their students with health care. I paid $500 quarterly for my insurance which did not include any prescription benefits.) The woman I was staying with eventually forced me to see a doctor. She said that they had some kind of "consultation hours" and no appointment was a necessary. I would just have to go and wait my turn. Having spent some long hours in emergency rooms in the past (At different times, I broke both my leg and my arm as a child), I was not looking forward to this. But in under and hour, I was able to see a bonafide doctor. He ran some tests and wrote me a couple of prescriptions. Finally, the dreaded question of insurance came up. Because I was not in Belgium on a visa, I would have to pay for my health care. My doctor visit was 21 euros. The three prescriptions he wrote me (anti-nausea, sleep-aid and some kind of decongestant) were an additional 30 euros.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Things That Make Me Throw Up In My Mouth

As some of you may have noticed, I was out of the country for most of the summer. Perhaps that is how I managed to miss the opening of the 27 million dollar Creation Museum in Kentucky in May of last year, further contributing to our current position as laughing-stock of the western world. For those that may not be in-the-know, this museum promotes a literal interpretation of the Bible, including the idea that the Earth is a meager 6000 years old. In order to accommodate the enormous fossil record, the museum depicts Adam and Eve cavorting with Brontosauruses and T. rexesin the garden of Eden. In fact, there are even dinosaurs wearing saddles in the Garden of Eden exhibits. I suppose that makes sense - why ride a camel, or a horse, or a llama, or an elephant if you could ride a dinosaur? Certainly, if I were cavorting in the garden of Eden, clothing-less, sex-less, and knowledge-less, I would think to make a saddle for a triceratops and ride him around in paradise to my heart's content.

The museum further asserts that the fossil record we have is a result of the organisms that were alive being distributed and buried during the great flood. The Grand Canyon is a result of all of the flood waters receding (a brilliant example of catastrophism). Apparently the museum ends with a montage about the ills of the human race (including drugs, abortions, teen suicide and homosexuality). The reason the human race has descended into evil is, of course, because too many people believe in evolution.


So, my first factual issue with this whole thing is that the majority of Americans do not believe in evolution. 61% of Americans believe in creationism (though the number of those that believe in a literal, young earth version of creationism is mercifully smaller). It is because so many people do believe in creationism that has allowed such a place to be built in the first place. Clearly, there are plenty of other gross factual errors in what I've described here, the most laughable being that dinosours and humans were somehow alive at the same time. But I feel confident that any reasonable human being is capable of discerning fact from fiction in that account. Any unreasonable person will not be persuaded by anything I have to say on the matter.

So, instead of discussing in fine, scientific detail what exactly is wrong with the Creation Museum, I'm going to post an m4a. In flagrant violation of copyright law, I give you Dinosaurs in the Bible by Bill Hicks, one of my very favorite comedy sketches. For all like-minded scientists, listen and be amused. For all not-like-minded people, listen and go vent your righteous anger in your own blogs.

What's the silver lining on any of this? At least we're not alone in our shame.


Belle in a Yellow Dress 3

When I was young, my parents took me to an amusement park in Florida. I was enamoured of this woman (one of the park employees) that dressed up in a big, yellow southern belle dress. So, before we went home, my parents bought me this doll of the woman in the dress I loved.

Music Box

I loved this little carousel music box when I was younger. As it plays its tune, the horses go up and down and the platform spins around. Now it sits on a shelf in my old bedroom and gets covered in dust.

Someday, when I have space (insert maniacal laughter here) I will rescue some of these things. Maybe not the doll (because dolls are kind of creepy - I feel like they're always staring at me) but definitely the music box.

camera: pentax *ist ds
lens: 100mm macro
settings: f2.8 @ 1/30 (doll) @ 1/60 (carousel)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa Caucus

So, did everyone but me know how all of this works?

I have always lived in states where there are primaries, and I blithely assumed that a caucus was pretty much the same as a primary, and that an older word was used for the fun of it (kind of like how Louisiana has "parishes" instead of counties). But I was watching the news the other night and they started talking about "old style democracy" and standing under banners and other things like that. So today, I looked up the Iowa caucus and damn it's cool!

For the democratic party (which I am a part of - shocking, I know), each caucus goer stands under the banner of the candidate they want. People who are undecided can mill around and be persuaded by the supporters for different candidates to stand under a particular banner. Eventually a halt is called to all of this, and there is a head count. Any candidate that has a certain percentage of the vote (15-20%) is considered "viable". Those with less are declared inviable and their supporters have to stand under the banner of one of the viable candidates. After that, there's some more convincing and cajoling, and ultimately another head count is taken. All of the head counts are reported to the state and and overall count is made and the results are announced.

I want to participate in a caucus now! It almost makes me want to move to Iowa.


(I said almost.)

The Lady or the Tiger

For those that might not be living on the right coast (as opposed to the left coast), the big story on Christmas was a 16 year old boy being killed by a tiger at the San Francisco zoo. And by big story, I pretty much mean the only story; when I got back to my parents house after stuffing myself with garlic dip and cheeseballs at my aunt's house for Christmas, it was quite literally the only news story playing on every channel. The news rotation went a little like this: tiger attack, tiger attack, weather, christmas lights, then back to the tiger attack again.

At first everyone thought it was a horrible accident. Then more news came out about the possibility that these three boys (aged 16, 19 and 23) might have been taunting the tiger. (Three young men in a group doing something stupid and irreponsible?! Why that seems so unlikely!) Then the newspeople said we'd all have to wait until the two boys who were mauled but not killed to be released to find out what really happened. But then those two boys lawyered up like all innocent people with nothing to hide, so we're kind of back to the beginning again with a dead boy and a dead tiger and not a lot of other information.

Here's my take. Did the zoo screw up? Yes. People are idiots and the zoo people should be prepared for any kind of totally asinine behavior from people visiting their zoos. Never underestimate the power of people in large groups to do the most illogical, dumb, disrespectful, and dangerous things. And when people come screaming to your door, yelling, "A tiger has escaped and is mauling us!" it's probably worth an investigation, no matter how implausible it sounds at the outset (see my previous comments about the power of stupid people in groups.)

Did the kids screw up? Oh yes. I think they were taunting the tiger. I think they were probably doing stupid and dangerous things - perhaps one was "double dog dared" to jump into the tiger pit. I would wager that some action on their part could be construed at the proximate cause of the 16 year old's death. I feel pretty sorry for the tiger who I suspect was just doing what tigers do.

So tomorrow the zoo opens up again and there is going to be a little memorial inside for people to leave a token on. The best part? Zoo-goers can leave their little remembrance for the kid ... or for Tatiana the tiger, may she rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

#1: Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
fiction, (c)1958 , 206pp
rating: *****

When I was going through high school, there was an upheaval in the California english curriculum. There was a back lash against the traditional reading lists packed with traditional classics (all written by dead old white men) and the introduction of a curriculum packed with contemporary literature punctuated by the occasional Shakespearean play. Thus while I never read Great Expectations or Heart of Darkness, I did read The Handmaid's Tale (by Margaret Atwood), Woman Warrior (by Maxine Hong Kingston) and Beloved (by Toni Morrison). Surprisingly, Things Fall Apart fell between the cracks and became a casualty of a fluctuating curriculum, despite its being written by a Nigerian man. Therefore, this is my first time reading this very interesting novel.

Things Fall Apart is mainly about Okonkwo, one of the leaders of the Umuafia tribe that is part of the Ibo culture in Nigeria. Okonkwo is a classic hero with a tragic flaw - his desire to be unlike his father. So, while he has the admirable traits of being a self-made man who works hard for his life, he also rules his family with a proverbial heavy hand. The first two thirds of the book show an unflinching picture of what tribal life is like. While there is a great emphasis put on the role of traditions and family, there is also a realistic portrayal of the more violent side of tribal life. The last third of the book deals with the arrival of the colonialists and how they change the traditional tribal life. Okonkwo gets caught in the middle of a shifting world and his tragic flaw ultimately leads to his tragic end.

This book is told in a very spare style, more like a fable than a story. However, the spare style is still sufficient to paint a rich picture of Ibo tribal life. This book is also an excellent commentary on the problems and pitfalls with colonialism in Africa and how even good deeds can be undone by religious zealotry. A really good read, and I'm quite sure I would have enjoyed it in high school as well.

More Movies, etc.

As I'm sure you could see with the last photo entry, Operation: Fly Around In A Really Loud Tiny Plane went well. We did not plunge into the side of a highrise in baseball player fashion. Rather we cruised around between 1500 and 4000ft getting a really awesome perspective. Next time D and I are both back in California, we're going to fly back to NYC in his plane. This takes a lot longer, but it will be way more fun.

We saw a post-flight movie, Charlie Wilson's War. At first, I was not particularly enthusiastic about this movie since I generally don't like movies about recent history. But it surprised me - it was funny and interesting and I wasn't bored despite knowing how it was all going to end. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was clearly the standout performance in the bunch. I also appreciated that the movie didn't end with us winning the covert war in Afghanistan, but also showed how we royally screwed up the clean up from the war (sound familiar?)

On New Year's Eve, I saw National Treasure: Book of Secrets with my parents. Dad's choice, but I liked it. I think these movies get kind of a raw deal because of when they're released. Book of Secrets was a fun, entertaining movie that didn't try to be anything it wasn't. If these movies (this one and the first Treasure movie) had been released in the summer, they would be hailed as fun summer blockbusters. But because they are released with all of the movies trying for Oscars, they are panned. Plus, the National Treasure movies have no blood and no extreme violence, which makes it an action movie fit for kids AND adults. That's pretty rare in the current movie industry where most action movies are strewn with the guts of all of the "redshirts".

I've also been Netflixing up a storm, trying to catch up on all of the movies I didn't watch for most of the year. I saw Stardust (fun fantasy movies which reminded me a bit of older fantasy movies before the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings phenomena) and The Hoax (boring bio-pic, though Richard Gere did a good job acting in it).

I love vacation. Flying! Movies! Reading! Dissertation? Nah.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Good View

We did a little hour long air tour around the San Francisco Bay area.

Golden Gate 2
D: I'm going to bank a little so you can get a good shot.
ME: gasp!

Hills 1
D: The hills are alive ...
ME: ... with the sound of music.

more hills

Slough 2
The air traffic controller warned us to watch for flying birds because of this little wetland sanctuary/slough near the airport.

Vast urban sprawl.

Happy 2008

I spent yesterday night in bee-utiful California with my parents and our family cats and dog, drinking coffee (not alcohol) and watching movies. This was a huge improvement over last years disaster of an evening. And today I going for a spin around the San Francisco Bay with my friend in his plane and having lunch in Half Moon Bay.

Much. Better.

Here's to a relaxing and uneventful 2008.