Friday, July 28, 2006

Movie Review: Lady in the Water

We went to see "Lady in the Water" last night and left feeling lukewarm about it. I didn't dislike it, but didn't love it. Shyamalan's movies are usually "hit or miss" for me - the only one I really enjoyed was "Sixth Sense". I did not care very much for "Signs", and I never saw "The Village". To be honest, the reason I wanted to see it is that I really enjoy watching Paul Giamatti, especially in "American Splendor" and "Sideways". Even when he plays smaller roles, like in "Private Parts", he does a good job.

The one thing this movie does well is provide interesting and amusing characters. For instance, there is the young guy who is doing a "science experiment" by only working out the right side of his body (gee, I wonder why), the very large Hispanic family with five very loud and verbal daughters, and the young Asian woman going to college while living with her mother. Watching the dialogue between those two makes me alternate between cringing and laughing. Then, there is Cleveland Heep (Giamatti) who is the superintendent of The Cove apartments. I must say that Giamatti does very well portraying him, and I had not realized from the trailers that this character is a stutterer. He must have done his homework, because he was very convincing. Bryce Dallas Howard plays "Story", the water nymph from the "Blue Place". She does an okay job - nothing ever jumps out at me as spectacular.

The movie is based on a bedtime story that Shyamalan tells his little girls. I feel sorry for them, because parts of this were scary, especially the scrunt (wolf-like creature who hide in the grass) who prowl around the property while trying to thwart Story's return to her Blue World. Basically, Heep discovers Story, the nymph at the apartment's pool. While trying to get her to come out of the water, he slips and falls, knocking himself unconscious. After falling in the pool, he is rescued by Story, who now thinks of him as her protector. After trying to return to her Blue World unsuccessfully, Story receives the aid of Heep as he tries to enlist the tenants' help. The story of the nymphs and scrunts is told by the older Asian woman through her daughter, since the mother does not speak English. As parts of the story are told, Heep is given clues in order to assemble a group of people to help Story. The part that is difficult for me to buy is that all of the people he assembles readily believe about nymphs and scrunts. Even the ones who are somewhat skeptical still end up going along with his plan. There are parts in the movie that are meant to be emotional, but they fell flat. Without giving away any more of the story, the ending is pretty typical - Story gets back to her Blue Place, but only after a scare with the scrunt because of a bungled attempt by the "guild" at protecting her return.

Because of the convoluted plot and the holes in the story, my rating is 5 out of 10 dancing feet. If you read other reviews about this movie, my rating is quite generous. This is because I'm giving points for the likability of the characters and the fact that I still maintain that Paul Giamatti can do no wrong as an actor.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

5 Things

I took this from TSHS. It's a little fluff because my brain is fried from all the heat:


ball point pen
Neutrogena lip balm
work badge (which looks like a prison mug shot)
Eclipse Winterfrost mints


driver's license
medical insurance cards
Border's discount card
debit/credit card
at least one receipt


coffee creamer
parmesan cheese
spray can of whip cream


my suitcase
extra pillows
a chair


a hand towel and my 24 Hour Fitness card
large warm blanket
a ball point pen
Thomas Guides for San Jose and San Francisco


a cup from my last school full of pens and other junk
a refridgerator magnet that says "Jennifer" in rainbow shiny colors (in case I forget who I am)
"Thank You" notes
a ceramic flowery drink coaster
blank CD's for burning

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Almighty Dollar

So we are having a major heat wave here in California, which has shoved us into voluntary (for now) power conservation and prompted tips and warnings about how to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke. This past weekend, the temperatures were record-breaking, but people attempted to continue their activities as much as they could. One such activity was an outdoor concert in the San Jose area. Now, I would not have attended such an event, but many people chose to. That's fine - more power to them if they are prepared to handle the heat. The problem was that the concert promoters only allowed people to bring in one bottle of water per person, then charged $7 for each bottle of water once in the concert. People were dropping of heat exhaustion and heat stroke - extra medical emergency teams were hired to be "on hand" to treat any heat related injuries. The ambulances had to alternate hospitals that they took people to so as not to overwhelm any one emergency room. I'm having trouble seeing why, if the concert promoters were so concerned about the almightly dollar and "did the best they could at the time" for the people, why they didn't either cancel/postpone the concert until we have sane weather or allow people to bring in more water or at least charge a reasonable price for water they sold. Only after many people were being treated for heat illnesses did they lower the price of water to $1 per bottle. It never ceases to amaze me what some assholes will do for a dollar.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Baby Blanket

I am extremely proud that I have finished my first knitted baby blanket. This is the biggest project I've ever knitted - mostly I work on scarves or dish cloths. I've been afraid to try such a big project because, up until now, I didn't know how to fix my mistakes. So, every time I made a mistake, I'd rip all the stitches out and start from beginning.

However, based on a recommendation from a friend, I bought the book pictured below - Maran's Illustrated Knitting and Crocheting. It gives very specific and easy-to-understand instructions on just about everything you need to know about knitting, even fixing mistakes! The pictures that accompany the instructions are very easy to see and really help to figure out for those of us who are visual learners (like myself).

I used this simple basketweave pattern (pictured below) along with a garter stitch border. The blanket came out to be 30" x 30", which is the perfect size for a little one. I learned a couple of things, though, with this project. First of all, all yarn is not created equally. I used an acrylic yarn of pale yellow, which is nice because it's a neutral color and the yarn can be machine-washed and dried. However, it doesn't feel as good against my fingers as a soft cotton yarn (like a yarn made out of Egyptian cotton or cotton blends).

Also, in looking at the finished product, I realized that I keep making the mistake of casting on too tightly - the corners of my beginning row curl up a little instead of laying flat. I made a few other mistakes along the way, but was able to fix them, thanks to the book.

I have no idea how I did this, but I managed to mess up a stitch along the border (pictured above).
Also, I have learned an important lesson that I will complete each row before setting it down to do something else. In the picture above, my pattern is messed up because I sat my work down in the middle of a row, and when I came back to it, forgot which stitch I was on. So I knitted the rest of the row, instead of following the pattern. When I ripped it out, it took me several tries to correct the row, and in the end, I ended up with one extra stitch on the needle. The next row, I decreased by one, which threw off the pattern.

This blanket was to be a gift for friends of ours who are expecting, but I will donate the blanket instead to a local hospital for parents who need a blanket for their little one. In the end, it is a good "first blanket" and I've learned several good lessons. My next attempt will be a pattern that I create - stay tuned....

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It's Like Google Can Read My Mind

So H sent me an invite some time back to try "gmail" by Google. After having the benefits explained to me about this new fangled email system, I decided to give it a go. I've had no complaints so far because very few people have this email, so I don't receive junk mail on it. However, it has an interesting feature that seems to be based on words or phrases in my emails - both sent and received. Along the right side of the page are advertisements similar to Amazon's "if you liked this book, you might also like...." ads. Normally, I don't pay too much attention and have never clicked on the ads... until recently (out of sheer curiosity). According to Google, I may be interested in this:

This is a "pink slip voodoo doll" that is apparently in cubicles everywhere in order to avoid pink slip layoffs. They are unique and infused with high energy, and I can be the proud owner of one for only $24.95.

I am also encouraged to participate in a vote to see who is more talented - Radiohead versus The Flaming Lips. I could win this!!! After I get done voting, I can check out the membership to the CWA, which is a "working families" Union. This is because I don't pay enough frickin' dues through the National Education Association and affiliated California Teacher's Association, only to receive so little in return. To make sure that I laugh, instead of cry, when getting screwed by union dues, Google made sure to recommend this site, which I've never heard of before. I did see one thing on the website that captured my interest, because now that I'm an adult, I have all the free time in the world to make crank calls along the order of the Jerky Boys. What ever happened to them?

All of this leads me to wonder if Google really CAN read my mind...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Too Much Power

So I go to Costco today to pick up digital prints I ordered from our visit to Disneyland. I am just a plain 'ole Goldstar Member, so on weekdays, I am not allowed into Costco before 11 a.m. Usually, when I show up a few minutes early, the customer service person at the front door lets me in. Today, I arrived at 10:57 and there was a huge line of people with their carts, presumably Goldstar members like myself, waiting to enter the store. Holding them back was a little Hispanic woman who was fastidiously checking her watch to be sure not to let us in to the store even a second or two early. So I watch in amusement as people have sour looks on their faces and the Costco lady's jaw juts even further out. A battle of wills. I am immediatly transported to the infamous airplane scene from "Meet the Parents" where Ben Stillar's character is the only one waiting in the terminal to board the plane, but because the ditzy attendant has not called his row, he must wait until she finally calls his row. The absence of logic and reasoning struck me as I waited to get into Costco, watching the growing throng of people block the entrance and exit to the place. So it makes more sense to let the entryway and exit get clogged with people rather than to let them in a minute or two early? Clearly, the Costco-Check-Your-Badge-At-The-Door people have way too much power.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Happiest Place on Earth

When K first arrived for the summer, we asked him what he'd like to do during his stay. He wanted to go swimming, go on a fishing trip, and go to Disneyland. The swimming is easy since our apartment complex has a pool, and the fishing trip is scheduled for the end of July out of Half Moon Bay. This past Friday, we visited Disneyland. K had been a few years ago with my mom, but I had not visited since I was 14. Let's just say that it's a bit different than what I remember.

I don't remember them doing a fireworks show behind the palace, but they probably did. I was impressed by this year's fireworks - they topped the ones we saw at Great America on the 4th. In honor of Disneyland's 50th anniversary, they went all out - they had Julie Andrews narrate and had voice clips and music from various movies and attractions to accompany each set of fireworks. This was probably my favorite part of the day - I cannot get enough of fireworks.

We also went to the "Innovation" exhibit where new technology is showcased. In here, they did a presentation of Honda's robot, Asimo. Right away, I realized that this was where South Park probably got their idea about the "Awesom-O" episode, which is one of my favorites. The presentation was cheesy, but at least we were able to see what this robot can do. K was worried about Asimo becoming smart enough to realize that he was being dominated by humans and possibly planning a revolt. I said, "Oh honey, they'll never make robots THAT smart", while inside my head I was envisioning a scene from I-Robot.

Throughout the park, there were Photomosaic pictures of different Disney characters. This was my favorite. There were newer characters like Nemo and Buzz, but I prefer the "old-school" characters.
My favorite pictures were of things like this - odds and ends that you find tucked away while waiting for a ride or while trying to find a quiet spot in order to gather my wits.

We caught part of the parade, and the thing I couldn't get out of my head was how incredibly awful it would be to have the job of wearing a costume in 95 degree heat.

The best parts of Disneyland were the rides. My top three rides were Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and It's A Small World. We rode most of the popular new rides and I got incredibly soaked on Splash Mountain, but nothing can hold a candle to the rides from the days of old.
K had difficulty appreciating "It's a Small World", especially because the ride is pretty long and the song plays the entire time. But when you think of the intent of Disney in creating the ride, it's hard not to recognize the value behind the sentiment.

All in all, we had a very good time. It was very crowded, though, and I was amazed by the number of people riding those mechanized wheelchairs. It's not my place to judge, but some of them looked healthy enough to walk around. Being bumped and jostled while getting from ride to ride is all part of the experience, after all. I was proud of K - he tried every ride we went to, even Space Mountain. This was even after our particular car suffered from a "malfunction", and we had to get out and be loaded into a different car while the ride was halted. He does not usually like roller coasters and balks at anything that turns upside down (which nothing at Disneyland did), but he was quite a trooper. I know people who have mixed feelings about Disneyland, but I think everyone should get to experience the "happiest place on earth" at least once in their lifetime.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Father Figure

So, in order to do a very important printing job, I went and splurged on the Canon Pixma M500 All-In-One printer. It was very easy to set up, but I had been looking forward to just having a scanner because of the plethora of old photos I would like to edit. You can guess that it wasn't long before I got distracted from the original reason I purchased this machine and started rifling through old photos. I came across several that my grandma had given me from when I was a very young girl.

Recently, I've been asked to complete an exercise that addresses "old baggage" and how it still influences me today. Because of this activity, I have been hyperfocused on the men who were not healthy influences throughout my life - mainly my stepfather. But my heart softened a bit when I saw all the pictures of me with my Grandpa. If there was a steady male in my life, he was it. Grandpa was the person I knew I could go to whenever I needed anything, even a good "straightening out".

This special relationship I had with him started at a very young age. I remember being very excited any time I knew that Grandpa was going to come get me. I waited by the window of our place and watched for his truck. My grandma told me about one time when Grandpa passed by and didn't pick me up, but I had seen him. My mother called my grandmother to ask what happened because I was inconsolable and she couldn't figure out why. That was the last time he passed by our place without picking me up.

For a few short years, my brother and I lived with our grandparents, which was a very good time for me. It was our ritual during hot summer evenings to lie on the living room floor with our pillows, watch TV, and eat green grapes.

Grandma and Grandpa lived on a farm, and I spent most of the days when I was not in school following grandpa around as he fed the animals and worked on the farm. He took me everywhere with him and was especially kind and loving with me. When I got older and even into young adulthood, I knew he though of me as his daughter, especially because he had not been close to his own daughters. Even when he was angry with me and chewed me out, I knew he would never stop loving me or accepting me.

It's funny that, when I get in the "pity party" mode, I come across something that makes me happy and grateful for what I did have.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Walking Advertisement

There are certain products I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, and then there are others that I love and swear by. When extolling the virtues of a certain product, I have been told more than once that I sound like a commercial. It's just that, when I find a product I really like, and I feel is worth the money I've spent, then it's hard for me not to get excited. So, I thought I'd share some consumer products that I can't live without (in no particular order):

- This dandy little electronic toothbrush has been wonderful in reducing the time that my dentist spends scraping my teeth and picking at my gums. That, in itself, is worth it because I hate going to the dentist. But it also leaves my teeth noticeably cleaner than an average toothbrush, and it helps me brush the amount of time I’m supposed to because it has a nifty little quadric-pacer.

Abreva – Recently, I’ve had the mother of all cold sores (which I usually get once a year when school lets out). My dentist prescribed me some fancy-shmancy tube of ointment (Zovirax) that I paid way too much for. Not only was it expensive, but it did not heal my ouchie. So, I broke out my trusty tube of Abreva ($13 at Target) and the thing was gone in two days. This is proof that you don’t always have to pay more for something that works well.

Coffeemate Vanilla – I love coffee, but only when I can put my vanilla Coffeemate in it. I have tried the “International Delights” brand as well as the generic Safeway brand, and they just don’t taste the same. I don’t know what I’d do if they ever stopped making Coffeemate – I guess I’d have to quit drinking coffee.

Toyota – I have had my share of cars – foreign and domestic, and I have to say that all of the American cars I’ve had are pieces of shit. I’ve driven Nissan, Toyota, Dodge, Pontiac, Chevy, and Ford, and my American cars have cost me way more in repairs than either Nissan or Toyota. I have a newer Corrolla, and yeah, it’s not the fanciest car in the world, but I really don’t care as long as I get to where I’m going with the least amount of pain and drain on my pocketbook. If I have the regular services done, I have every confidence that this car will last me at least 20 years.

Dove Shampoo – I have recently switched to Dove after trying the expensive brands on my hair. What I’ve found is that my hair does no better when I use the expensive stuff, and it actually smells better when I use Dove. And I don’t have to feel guilty for spending the $3 a bottle versus $15-30 for the foo-foo shampoos.