Avatar: WOW!

There's nothing quite like seeing a really excellent movie. It's sad that it happens so rarely.

I saw Avatar today.
Wow, was it ever a fantastic movie!
I've seen comparisons of it to Star Wars (the best one is Jim's). The comparison is apt in many ways. It is truly an amazing technical piece that takes movie story-telling to a whole new level. (Remember how amazed we all were with how realistic Gollum was? Multiply that by 10.) And the funny thing is, the criticisms I've seen about the movie, about it being too simplistic, too predictable, those are all criticisms that have been leveled at Star Wars. All those "stereotyped" characters are also archetypes. So yes, the Noble Savage is not so generally wonderful as portrayed, and the Military is not so generally single-minded as protrayed, but it is in the context of a fairy tale and we have the knowledge that real life is not so simple.
It is fun, the writing is great (don't believe the critics!) and so is the acting. I love how the hero shrugs off digs on his intelligence because of his profession. "Yeah, whatever you want to think," it seems to say. Sam Worthington, the actor playing the hero is great. He really manages to embody the curious, eager, passionate, courageous, and charismatic character. (I saw an interview later in which he talks about how he felt that a hard core Marine would be difficult for people to access and identify with, so he modeled the impetuous, childlike nature on his 7-year old nephew. It was a brilliant move, because that excitement and energy really carries you into the movie.)
The animation was fantastically done and the emotional value of the natives really comes through. It helps that it's modeled after real people. Little details really made a difference, and yet there was still an alien feel to them. They weren't just people with funny ears or bumpy foreheads. The world really felt real to me and I was sad when the movie ended. I wanted to get back in line and watch it again (this time in 3D) IMMEDIATELY! :D

I will watch it again in the theater. I will see it in 3D, as I understand that takes the fantasticness to an even higher level. SQUEE! I can't wait! :D


I also got some awesome cookbooks from Hot Chick Janiece. I really look forward to using the recipes in my day to day cooking! :D Thanks so much, hon! I really wish I hadn't forgotten your (actually, Boogie's) gift at home!


First Present

This morning, on my way to work, I thought I saw a beached cloud. At least, that's what it looked like. It wasn't up in the brilliantly sunny sky like it was supposed to. No, this one was lying on the ground near the highway. Very peculiar.

Work was very productive (as it usually is when I'm at work when no one else is around). I felt good enough about what I was doing that I regretted having to leave it unfinished. AND I was learning a cool program (Google Sketchup). It's very intuitive and it's free!

I spent the evening with my family, eating yummy Crockpot lasagna and talking about nonsense, as usual. My nephew kept us entertained and my latest marshmallow experiment - vanilla marshmallows made with honey, sesame and poppy seeds - turned out well.

This evening, I returned from my brother's house and decided to check that I didn't have any presents tucked into the inside corner of the front porch. Good thing I did, because sitting there unobtrusively was a gift package from the lovely and talented Jen A.

Inside was a thoughtful card, cookies, a cool reusable bag, a lovely bracelet (perfect color for me!), and a sweet little keychain with a pair of people hugging. I love it!

The bag was a really clever design and quite attractive when open.

Thank you so much, Jen! You are wonderful!

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays to everyone!


Something to Think About

My wonderfully thoughtful friend, Janiece, posted today about a series of essays that probe into what one believes.

I followed some of the links she included and found this fabulous essay by Norman Cousins. It really says a lot about the human condition in a short space and I highly recommend reading or listening to it.


1001 Tales AND Gifts From the East

Just noticed that the last post was my 1000th post, which makes this one = 1001. Here's to another thousand posts, just as random and personal as the last thousand posts. :)

Today, I found a package on my front porch -- a package that had been threatened by one John the Scientist, infamous sender of such heinous delicacies as Durian Cookies and Swallows Nest Soup. He also forced a member of the UCF to eat stinky tofu at gunpoint. (Ok, maybe it was his finger pretending to be a gun, or maybe it was just strong peer pressure. Nathan can be a big pushover sometimes...)
Anyway, it wasn't without some trepidation that I opened the box. Who knew what vile edible items lay in wait within?

Turns out, some pretty cool edible items did.

Remember my post about taste testing ramen?

John sent me a variety pack of different brands of ramen, mostly in the beef or seafood/shrimp flavors.

Neat! I'm looking forward to trying them. MWT's favorite, Sapporo Ichiban is there, as are a number of other essentially (because I can't read Korean or Japanese, though I can identify them) nameless brands. There are two made in the US and marketed for Asians (Sapporo Ichiban is one). One is from Hong Kong, one from Korea, and one from Vietnam.
Squee! This is going to be fun. :D

Thank you, John!

Edited to Add:
Michelle has posted on her latest mystery package from John. As MWT says elsewhere: "Yay tentacles. :) Nomnomnom..."

MWT has also posted on some tasty sounding Asian treats from John. Which confirms things for me, I'm making rice krispy treats for Christmas!


Not Present

I think this photo pretty much sums up how out of touch I've been for the last few weeks. I discovered this a few days ago. Obviously, I haven't been drinking much milk lately. Fear not, I poured the milk... or cheese... down the drain.
I hope things are improving, but holiday craziness should eventually die down. I do have things I've been doing and can chat about, but I just haven't had the time or the energy to post about them. We'll see what I can do about that in the near future.

In the meantime, I need to go to bed. I would like to get up early-ish so I can do some quick chore things. My parents are coming to stay for a few days tomorrow and I like for things to at least be presentable... :)


Can't Catch a Brake

(Attention: bad pun only tangentially related to actual problem.)

Monday, on my way to work, I had the wonderful experience of seeing smoke/steam streaming from under my hood and the temperature gauge spiking at the top end of the gauge. I got off the interstate, popped the hood to allow it to cool. I found lots of steam and green goo (coolant) decorating the inside of my engine compartment.

After a couple phone calls, I ended up buying a gallon of water to put in the radiator (after it had cooled, of course) and taking the long (lower speed) way to the mechanics.

I'll confirm the details when I pick up the car Tuesday morning, but it seems* that the radiator was cracked and needed replacement.

Why is it that my car waits until my savings account is severely depleted before having serious problems?

* Stay tuned for more accurate techno-babble...


Holiday Crush

I hate the "sorry I haven't been posting" posts, but this one will serve also as a run down on how my life is going recently:

- Historic Preservation project at work that has three days of exterior work planned for next week (was planned for last week, and fortunately able to be rescheduled, or we'd have been popsicles)
- Design project at work with an extremely short schedule, understaffed, and the client refuses to take any responsibility for decisions
- Cookie Exchange Party next weekend (I have no time for anything new and fun, so it'll be baklava, I think)
- Insulation needs to be put into the above ceiling (above grade) portions of the BitB (Bathroom in the Basement) project. I was thinking I'd do it this morning, but I "wasted it" sleeping in and relaxing.
- Drywall insulation on the BitB, scheduled for Wednesday evening.
- Making a Christmas gift for my nephew
- Buy a Christmas gift for ... someone in my family.
- Go through the finances to make sure that my household finances on track and the BitB project won't go over budget. (Need to pay some people next week.)

Addendum: Just foiled an escape attempt by Matti by grabbing him by the tail as he jumped off the railing. (Didn't plan it, just reacted.) I held him in my arms as soon as I hauled him close enough and even moments afterward he didn't seem too worse for the wear. A bit shocked at myself, but it turned out OK. Whew! I'm super glad I didn't hurt him.



If you want to generate a sudden and intense cleaning frenzy, invite an electrician or two over to do some work. The fine layer of gritty drywall/plaster dust left behind will drive you to it, no matter how late it is.


Interesting Quote

"Love is friendship on fire."

A friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page. It is compelling in its simplicity and definitely thought provoking.



Mmm... Baking Tools

My lovely friend, Tania, recently downsized her household and wanted to get rid of some pans. I, always on the lookout for cool free stuff, volunteered to receive them. Yesterday they arrived -- two springform pans with molded inserts, one tube cake pan, and one giant heartshaped cookie cutter (?). She also sent along some fun gifts, coffee beans, birch syrup, cat treats, and catnip (yippee!) for the cats.
Thank you so much, Tania!




I was getting ramen soup at the grocery store yesterday (yes, I still eat ramen, even though I have a job) and had an idea. I always buy the same brand. What if I had a taste test between my brand and the other one (which was twice as expensive)?

So, here are the results:

On the left, we have the current favorite, Maruchan. They have a greater variety of flavors, including "roast chicken" and "creamy chicken" (the latter of which is my favorite).
At $0.17 per package at King Soopers, it's also the cheapest.

On the right, we have the challenger, Top Ramen. They have fewer flavors, though they have one non-standard flavor "picante beef" that sounds interesting (actually that's what a cheesy marketer might call pho...). At $1.00/3 packages at King Soopers, cheap, but not as cheap as the other.

Long story short, the Maruchan is still my favorite. Top Ramen had a peculiar aftertaste (no doubt they both have peculiar tastes, but I'm just used to the Maruchan) and seemed a bit oily (though the nutritional data on the package is the same). The noodles in the Top Ramen seemed a bit better quality, but not enough to offset the difference of flavor.

Long live Maruchan...

Yes, I'm still silly.