Sunday, March 25, 2007

Oh, China

I know I always write these sentimental China posts (because I miss it), and when I say sentimental I mean something really crazy. Normally the inspiration for my posts is Joann Pitman's blog, and I decided to link right to it today, because Joann really is a great and funny writer. If you ever find what I write about China interesting, you should definitely read her blog.

And here's the link to the article Joann cites concerning Beijing's weather predicting prowess and, what else, the 2008 Olympics!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fear of quicksand: Gone?

Since the very first time I saw a movie where someone sinks into quicksand and almost dies (they're pretty much always saved, huh?), I've been scared to death of the stuff. I would've definitely ranked it very near the top of my phobia list--if I'd thought of it, but thankfully, quicksand isn't really something I think about a lot (nothing like Abe Lincoln, of course).

Until last night, when all of that changed. I was watching a Miyazaki movie, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, when two of the characters fell into quicksand. They're OK, though--they're sucked through the quicksand into a huge chamber underneath the toxic forests where Princess Nausicaa discovers the secret of the petrified trees, the insects and their efforts to save the earth from the wastefulness of humans (but that's beside the point). In real life, I am completely sure, if I stepped into quicksand I would not be OK. I would die an awful, crushing, lungs-filling-with-sand sort of death. I know enough about my physical abilities and overall clumsiness that there's no chance I would survive.

But, hoping to find some sort of tips on how to survive quicksand should I ever find myself in such a terrifying situation, I looked it up on Wikipedia. (And just to note here, I don't feel that I can say, "I wikipedia'd it." It's no "googled"--yet.) And, to my HUGE relief, Wikipedia's entry on quicksand told me this:

Quicksand is not as dangerous as depicted in many movies. As quicksand is rarely more than a few feet deep, there is usually little danger of sinking below the surface. Even when the quicksand is deep enough, deliberate effort is required to sink below the surface. Quicksand is typically denser than the human body, meaning that a body is much more buoyant in quicksand than in water. Thus, the body will float quite easily in quicksand.

Now, I don't float very well in water, so it's not like I'm gonna be jumping in the stuff for a nice swim, but I thought I would sleep a little better tonight, until I started researching more, and found this, which contained such warnings as this (emphasis mine):

While it's possible to die of exposure (hypothermia) from being stuck in cold quicksand for an extended period of time, most quicksand-related deaths result from drowning. Most people who drown because of quicksand do so on beaches or tidal flats, where quicksand is common and where a person can become trapped as the high tide comes in. If this is a concern try to get out as quickly as possible, but still do not panic, as that will only hurt your efforts. Keep your head as high above ground (and water) as possible in order to give you more time if you are still stuck as water approaches. Generally, however, by the time the tide comes, it is too late. The best solution is prevention. Avoid crossing mudflats or other tidal areas or exercise extreme caution when doing so. Know when the tides will come in, do not go alone, and carry rope, a stick and a flotation device that you can easily inflate should you become stuck. And, of course, whatever you do, avoid putting your head under the quicksand, even for an instant.

Back to the awful thoughts. And then it added this...
While choosing to hike barefoot may protect you from quicksand, it can expose you to parasites that enter through the skin, such as hookworms and strongyloides.

Which reminded of another of my irrational fears, stuff crawling into my feet. (And for those of you keeping score at home here, my other worst fears are of aliens, which is why the movie Signs absolutely terrified me--Superman and Alf, though aliens, I'm ok with--and of a certain form of interactive theater. Don't ask.)

So, just to be safe, I advise everyone to read this, which, though it contains a scary picture, gives some good hints. In the end, I hope we're all a little more educated on that scary non-killer quicksand, and like everyone tells you in times when panic is the exact appropriate response (like, oh, drowning in quicksand), don't.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Review: Princess Mononoke

My favorite Miyazaki film,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Review: Stranger Than Fiction



Will Ferrell is great as Harold Crick, a routine-driven, by-the-numbers IRS auditor who for no apparent reason hears a voice (Emma Thompson) narrating his everyday life. All this just seems a little, well, "strange" until the voice announces that Harold's death is imminent. Helped along by his wristwatch and Jules Hilpert (Dustin Hoffman), a literature professor who's trying to determine if the story is a comedy or a tragedy, Harold begins to live his life as if he really is dying--with newfound meaning and purpose.

Zach Helm's writing is delightful and Marc Forster's (Finding Neverland) directing clever, and the film contains quite a few questions worth considering beyond the closing credits.

As the plot progresses, we learn that the voice Harold hears is that of author Karen Eiffel, that she is writing a book about Harold Crick, whom she has never met and doesn't realize is real, and that she has indeed penned his demise. Harold doesn't want to die, especially after finally beginning to live his life, but after reading through Eiffel's finished manuscript, Hilbert tells Harold something along the lines of, "We all die. If not today, in this way, then tomorrow or the next day in some other way." A heart attack. Choking on a mint. And, he says, the death written for Harold has meaning and poignancy beyond those other mundane deaths. "The hero dies but the story lives on," Hilpert argues.

While Harold comes to terms with all of this, as well as if he would do something differently if he could, Karen wonders if she has the power to save Harold's life at all--or, is there no chance to change what's already written in our lives?

I won't ruin the ending, but Eiffel's final narration claims that it's the beauty in the little things which make up our lives and our every days which truly make life worth living. This is a lesson Harold Crick learns and lives out and it's the questions his story raise (what will we do in the face of death and our own mortality and, what truly makes a life--and death--meaningful?) that make this film well worth watching.

Mario

This ought to happen before every Pens game the rest of the season:



Now who doesn't have goosebumps?? For real. Go Pens.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Review: Zodiac

The acting is superb, specifically Jake Gyllenhall, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. (though the entire cast excells), and the pacing works just right despite moving slowly across almost three decades. In a way it reminded me of a really good, 2-hour 40 min.-long episode of one of the "Law & Order"s, in that there is a large cast working together on the same crime, but call it Law & Press instead as the focus is on the San Francisco PD and the San Francisco Enquirer who is brought into the middle of the mystery due to secret codes the Zodiac killer demands to printed in exchange for human life. You see all the murders (depicted graphically but not bloodily), but never the murderer, and we follow along with those trying to catch the Zodiac killer. The long hunt takes a toll on all those involved and it's really only two that see it through to the end.

It's a character-driven story and the tagline for the film, "there's more than one way to take a life" (or something) holds very true. While the public fear over the murders, which span a few different counties in California, goes away as the murders end, those who invested so much time in solving the crimes, from the lead detectives to a cartoonist at the Enquirer, and those directly effected by the murders (siblings, survivors) can't let it go so quickly.

And, as the pieces are put together, we come to know the Zodiac himself, including the various suspects the SFPD investigate. We get an insight into the minds of those murder and those who solve murders, and in the end it's satisfying in a creepy sort of way.

A great day for hockey


(Picture courtesy of thepensblog.com)

No thanks to Ed Rendell, Dan Onorato and Mayor Ravenstahl, the Pens are staying in Pittsburgh, right where they belong. I think the 'Burgh is really going to run with the Pens now--and I think now that it's all said and done, this was a good thing. It seemed to me that the whole arena saga made Pens fans in Pittsburgh--and there sure are a ton of 'em--come out of the woodwork and realize, and say to the hockey world, how much our hockey team means to our town. And I believe this wasn't just bandwagon fans realizing what an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime group of young players we have, but a city really waking up and saying, sure we love our Steelers and our Buccos, but we love our Pens just as much. Bob Smizik couldn't have been more wrong: Pittsburgh wouldn't have been the same without the Penguins. And now we can really, truly appreciate the joy this team ought to bring us for the next decade or so. Before today we were scared to really dream about the potential of Malkin, Crosby, Staal and the rest (or at least I was), because they could've been winning Cups in KC. Now we know, whether miracles keep happening and the Cup comes to Pittsburgh in 2007 or not, there will be exciting hockey played in Pittsburgh for years and years to come. Kudos to the fans for showing such amazing support for the team these past months, and now not only do we have a playoff run to look forward to these next few weeks, Cup runs these next few years, but in 2009, a shining new arena to call our own. In about 20 minutes, we'll face off against the Sabres, and a new era of Pittsburgh Penguins hockey begins.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Arena done deal?

KDKA is reporting the arena deal is done and we'll hear about it tomorrow before we play the Sabres. I'll wait before I celebrate (because I feel like they've said this before), but I might just sleep a little easier tonight.

I'll have lots more to say about the Buccos and Spring Training soon. I have thoughts on the 25-man roster, and I also want to review the movie Zodiac, which I mentioned I saw while I was in Bradenton.

I realize this blog has been pretty lame of late, especially in the updates about myself department, and there are reasons for that, but I have some stuff in the works and lots of ideas I'd like to do here... we can blame business for the lack of awesome posts thus far. Here are a few things that have been on my plate of late: Applying to, being accepted by, and trying to make a decision about attending Pitt in the fall (which will really start this summer with a few pre-reqs I have to catch up on). Preliminarily planning a youth group missions trip to Marseilles, France, also for this summmer and being pretty frustrated by the lack of progress I've made. And, trying to psych myself up to apply for jobs because really, I'd like some $ and my own place. There are a few things I'm looking at now and are interested in, but I lack that something to get me really going. That's all for now... I'll keep ya posted.

UPDATE Tues. 12:13 AM: Post-Gazette confirms. I think this is for real.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Florida

Just wanted to let you, my readers, know that I'm wearing flip flops and shorts and watching baseball. Have been for two days now (three games under our belt), and Dad and I have another game to catch tomorrow. I'm kicking myself for not bringing my laptop down so I could've blogged more (and, of course, because I miss her) but it's sure been nice to kick back and remember what the sun looks like, even without writing words about it. I saw the new movie Zodiac, too, last night and dug it. And, to top it all off, tomorrow after the Pirates crush the Yankees I will play my first game of putt putt in 20-07 and then, Sunday morning Dad and I will fly home in time for church.

See you all again soon!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

"Hello"

Cool site illuminating an awesome commercial.

Or watch it right here:

Monday, March 5, 2007

Kuwata-mania

Funny Asia-related story from the Pittsburgh Trib's baseball writer. There's a 38-year old Japanese pitcher trying to fulfill a life-long dream of pitching in the Majors in Pirates camp this spring, this dude Masumi Kuwata. Apparently he's followed around by 25-50 members of the Japanese media at any given time (something I'm excited to see when I'm down there myself). Anyway, here's a run-in Nameless Beat Writer Who's Not Dejan Kovacevik had with a Japanese media person the other day:

Thursday, during the Pirates' Grapefruit League opener at McKechnie, I was asked to do an interview about Kuwata for Japanese TV. Sure, why not?

The "interview" was far different than what I'm used to as an American sports writer. The setup was staged -- the interviewer told me to pretend we met by accident at the game, while I was standing near the Cincinnati Reds bullpen, "writing" a story on my laptop. "Are you a newspaper writer?" Why, yes, I am. "Do you know about Masumi Kuwata?" Why, yes, I do. "Do you think he will do well pitching for the Pirates this season?" Actually, no, I don't.

Wrong answer, apparently. Take two.

My interviewer wasn't going to be happy until I said Kuwata would ring up the wins in Pittsburgh this summer. It was getting late in the ballgame and I still had my own stories to write, so I took the easy way out.

"Will Kuwata do well pitching for the Pirates this season?" Oh, yes. He'll win 20 games, maybe.

Smiles all around.

No big deal, I thought. After all, how many people in Japan would be watching that TV show, anyway?

About 125 million, I was told.

Welcome to Asian TV, Beat Writer Man, possibly the craziest thing on earth.