Monday, December 04, 2006

The Fountain

You aren't likely to hear about The Fountain. It's not a very accessible film. Even most critics have been bewildered by it. I saw it last night however, and it has affected me and stayed with me more than any film I've seen since "Requiem for a Dream."

There are three parallel stories in the film. The central story involves a modern day couple, Tom and Izzie, played by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. Izzi is dying of a brain tumor, and Tom is a neuroscientist desperately trying to save her life. Izzi is writing a novel called "The Fountain" about a conquistador that goes to South America to search for the Tree of Life, and this novel becomes the second story. The third story takes place at some point in the distant future. In it Tom hurtles through space towards a golden nebula inside of a transparent sphere. The first two stories take the form of his memories as he waits to arrive at his destination accompanied by a giant tree.

The acting in the movie is nothing short of incredible. Tom's grief is palpable, alternately ferocious and debilitating, and Izzi's shift from fear to acceptance of her imminent death is touching in contrast. Essentially, however, the movie is about images and themes: The ways we view death, the lengths we'll go to to prevent it, the way that coming to terms with the death of a loved one requires you to accept your own mortality, the conflict between working to save someone and being with them for their remaining time, and what grace, if any, there is after death. The images in the film are equally riveting: The sunlit tree of life at the summit of a Mayan temple, silhouetted tai chi in front of a field of stars, and many others. The music fits the mood and subject matter perfectly, a collaboration between the Kronos Quartet and Mogwai.

The connections between plots reveal themselves gradually, many parallel images create a sort of echoing continuity, and only at the end of the film is there a clear causal link between the stories. Most of the movie is as bleak and desperate as its images are beautiful. Ultimately however, the characters grow to accept and understand their mortality, and in a triumphant finale achieve what little material transcendence is possible in a physical world. It's not an easy movie, and you might not like it, but I guarantee you'll remember it long after you forget every other movie you've seen this year.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I'm Wiiless!

Charles, Nayema, and I went Wii hunting. When we got to Toys 'R' Us at 11 last night there were over 90 people in line for 80 units. We got to Walmart at 7AM. I was person 16 and they had 14 units (picture 1). We went to Target and there were 160 people in line for 70 units (picture 2). We went to Best Buy, and they had already handed out tickets for all of the 60 units they had (picture 3). The going rate of spots in line was $70, at least according to the one transaction I witnessed. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 16, 2006

New photo albums

Pictures from Hawaii and this past summer for anyone that missed them.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Happy Halloween!

It really doesn't feel like Halloween without chilly weather and the smell of leaf mold. On the other hand, this is without question the scariest pumpkin I have ever carved.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Lauren's Visit

When it's been a hot day on the coast, fog starts rolling in right before sunset.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

After Hours Productivity

Through a rigorous scientific process I have determined that the distribution of balls in the Google ball pit does not match the distribution of colors in the Google logo.

Rich's Wedding and the Cincinnati Nature Center

I went to Cincinnati this past weekend for my cousin Rich's wedding. It was really wonderful. :)

I've got longer videos of the dance that I'm uploading to google video at the moment. I'll post them here when they finish uploading.

Update: here they are. 1 2 3 4

On Sunday after a brunch at my Aunt's, my mom and I along with my other aunt and uncle went to the Cincinnati Nature Center. Here are some pictures from that. I missed the height of the leaves changing by about a week, but I saw enough of it to tide me over.

The video in that album is of woolly aphids devouring a limb of a beech tree. The only thing that eats them is a particular type of carnivorous caterpillar.

There are a lot of wonderful things at the nature center. In the spring the frog ponds are all suitably full of frogs and lily pads for them to sit on. The larger lakes are great places to watch fish and turtles come up to the surface to gulp down any offered food, or to watch turtles sunning themselves on a log. In the summer the prairies are full of birds and the sounds of locusts. In the winter the clearings in front of the bird blinds fill up with birds, and they are my favorite part. When I'm in a bird blind I feel like I'm simultaneously kneeling at an ancient forest shrine and watching the lost boys have a food fight. Together, the two effects ensure that I always leave refreshed. I think I like Charley Harper's art for a similar reason. A lot of artists capture the grandeur and beauty of nature, but I've seen few that simultaneously capture it's silliness.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mark Warner is going to be president.

I don't think there's a politician alive with more ideas or credibility. Spread the word.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Garrison Keillor on Habeas Corpus

Garrison Keillor had some powerful words to say about the recent Senate action. There should be an editorial like this in every newspaper in the country.

None of the men and women who voted for this bill has any right to speak in public about the rule of law anymore, or to take a high moral view of the Third Reich, or to wax poetic about the American Idea. Mark their names. Any institution of higher learning that grants honorary degrees to these people forfeits its honor. Alexander, Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Burr, Carper, Chambliss, Coburn, Cochran, Coleman, Collins, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, DeMint, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Frist, Graham, Grassley, Gregg, Hagel, Hatch, Hutchison, Inhofe, Isakson, Johnson, Kyl, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Lott, Lugar, Martinez, McCain, McConnell, Menendez, Murkowski, Nelson of Florida, Nelson of Nebraska, Pryor, Roberts, Rockefeller, Salazar, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Smith, Specter, Stabenow, Stevens, Sununu, Talent, Thomas, Thune, Vitter, Voinovich, Warner.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

"It's a free country"

Most of you are probably aware of the recent suspension of Habeas Corpus . Senator Chris Dodd said it at least as well as I could:

This longstanding tradition of our country about to be abandoned here is one of the great, great mistakes that I think history will record.
Reading about this for me is like gaping at a car wreck that you just can't turn away from. Here's how the vote went in the House and the Senate. In the past six years I've gotten used to the feeling of being embarrassed by my government, but I can no longer console myself that the executive is merely incompetent. I wonder how long it will take the phrase, "It's a free country," to fall out of circulation. It feels inadequate to mention any single notable and applicable quotation; There are so many, from Benjamin Franklin, George Orwell, Winston Churchill. What's amazing to me is that with the entire range of quotable and historic philosophers arrayed against this type of legislation, too few senators had the courage to stand against it to mount even a filibuster. I joined the ACLU today. Freedom apparantly can't protect itself.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Grandma Hartsock's 90th Birthday

Grandma's 90th
Sep 23, 2006 - 14 Photos
I don't think this past weekend could have possibly been more eventful or emotional. Here are a few of the things I did:
  • Flew into Cincinnati on the red-eye friday night (Exhausting)
  • Realised that I had lost my whole set of keys somewhere during my flights. (Sad)
  • Surprised my Grandma on her 90th birthday dinner and saw her gasp and burst into tears. (Happy)
  • Beatboxed under Neil's flow. (Happy)
  • Rushed home at 2am because water was pouring from the kitchen ceiling. (Sad, Exhausting)
  • Watched the Bengals almost lose against the Steelers and then finally pull off a win. (Happy, Exhausting)
  • Discovered that my grandma finds "America: The Book" hilarious. (Happy)
  • Watched a performance of "Of Mice and Men" at the Cincinnati Playhouse. (Sad)
  • Flew out of Cincinnati at 7AM. (Exhausting)
  • Found my keys at the security desk in SFO. (Happy)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Red River Gorge Info

A great trip
Kathryn asked for some information on Red River Gorge, so I annotated this map showing most of what I know about it. It seemed like the type of thing that ought to be on the internet. The blue line shows a four day backpacking trip I took with Rolli and Lauren in the spring of 2005, and the blue Xs show approximately where we camped. I've taken the trails that cut across sections of that southern loop, and they aren't as pretty as the rest of the park, but there are some neat views in places. The map underneath is from I definitely recommend chewing on some fresh wintergreen if you get the chance.

I'd recommend the pulled cream candy in the gas station outside of the park, but the woman who made them died this past year and her son couldn't keep up the business. It's the end of an era. They still sell Ale 8 however, so if you take a trip there and this map helps you, drink one for me. :)

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Proud Parent

This is what I look like in awe.
Those of you that have seen my living quarters over the last year have probably noticed my recently acquired obsession with plants. Though I'm sure "The Little Shop of Horrors"* is partly to blame, I credit my grandmother with getting me hooked. She gave me a pothos plant during my sophomore year of college and a jade plant the year following. I mothered both obsessively despite them not needing much attention, and the dropped leaves of that jade plant have since, with a little coaxing, spawned plants for pretty much anyone around me who wanted one. I was content with those until this past spring break when Rolli, Lauren, and I visited Hawaii.

The wet parts of Hawaii are naturally hospitable places for plants. If it's not a cactus, it will probably grow there. Every nook and cranny is covered with vegetation, so you can imagine the results when someone actively tries to grow things. The botanical garden north of Hilo, Hawaii is an amazing place, and it inspired me to buy ~$30 worth of bulbs and seeds in the gift shop. As a result, I now have ~20 young guava trees growing on my deck, and that's just the beginning. (If you want one you can probably have one once they are more established. I've got no shortage.) I've gotten to the point that I no longer throw away fruit pits. I start thinking about how the plant that just fed me poured huge amounts of energy into producing this little seed, and that the least I can do is plant it. Even if the fruit goes bad, I've been known to brave the mold and mushy fermenting fruit flesh and plant the pit anyways.

Baby Pictures.
Bringing my plants out to California was difficult as you can probably imagine. To start with, California is picky about what you bring in because of the significance of their fruit and nut industry. One diseased strawberry could financially ruin a whole lot of people. Thankfully, the Ohio department of agriculture has a guy that for $20 will come inspect your plants to certify that they are free of pests and disease. My plants are now papered and have all of the rights and obligations belonging thereto.

Secondly, there's the whole problem of transport. My car (see a few posts back) was pretty well equipped for this, but it was still complicated to keep terra cotta pots from breaking while keeping them accessible enough to water and move around when necessary. I shuttled them between the back seat and my tent whenever we went for an excursion during the day and were taking one car, and set them out in the sunlight whenever I could.

Unfortunately, upon successfully moving into my apartment in Mountain View, I became stupid. I thought, "Hey, my plants have had very little sunlight for the last ten days, I should put them all out on the porch 'cause they could probably use a lot of it." We left for 3 hours to go run some errands. They were all dead when we returned, or at least that's what it looked like. My peperomias were covered in dead leaves and burned at their base, my kahili ginger's leaves were scorched, the stems of my pothos plants were blackened, my other gingers were burned at the base and there were dead leaves all over everything else. This was pretty devastating as you can probably imagine. These plants were the result of months of love and attention, practically pets, and they were all half dead from one bit of stupidity. It had been an exceptionally hot day for Mountain View. The black soil in their pots heated up as it soaked up the sun and killed all of the tissue just above the surface of it. They were effectively nipped off.

I've been coaxing them back to life for the last few weeks, and been pretty successful. My kahili ginger is sprouting new stalks, as are my avocados. My guavas perked right back up, and I'm restarting my peperomias from the branches that I cut from the scorched bases. I'm trying to restart my smaller gingers from their root balls, but I'm not sure if I'll be successful. The worst hit plant was probably my variegated pothos which looked after three hours in the sun like it had spent 3 months in the compost. Every last little bit of stem was black. I cut a few living bits and tried to plant them, but they didn't last long. About a week ago, however, I noticed a tiny little bit of green poking up from a part of my pothos planter. It's currently struggling back from the roots after losing the entire body of the plant. New gardeners? try a pothos. You can kill every bit of living tissue above ground, and it still just might survive.

The most recent addition to my happy plant family are six seedlings of giant sequoias that poked up in the last few days. They started from seeds about the size of the bits of paper that a hole punch produces. The largest, about a centimeter tall, has its first soft pale needles unfolding with its tiny stem. Its a pretty amazing feeling to watch the birth of something that might live longer than Christianity. Some of the trees in Sequoia National Park have been around for 3,000 years.

Speaking of which, Lauren's camera survived the sand and was available to take pictures of the sequoias. She (like all the cool people are doing) has also put her pictures up on PicassaWeb. Check it out.

Here's the list of Common and species names that I prepared for the official from the Ohio Department of Agriculture:

Common NameScientific Name
Pink GingerAlpinia purpurata
Kahili Ginger Hedychium gardnerianum
Red Ginger Alpinia purpurata
Yellow Plumeria Plumeria rubra
GuavaPsidium guajava
Macadamia Macadamia integrifolia
Ti Plant Cordyline terminalis
Christmas Cactus Schlumbergera ...
Peperomia Peperomia ...
Pothos Epipremnum pinnatum
Jade plant Crassula ovata
African violet Saintpaulia ...
Avocado Persea americana
Nightblooming Cereus Epiphyllum oxypetalum

* "The Little Shop of Horrors" is a musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menkin, whom you may know as the writers of the music and lyrics for "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," and "The Beauty and the Beast." The story follows a poor worker at a plant shop who finds an alien Faustian plant in a local market. The plant offers him fame and fortune in exchange for a steady supply of blood to drink, which he eventually must kill people to obtain. I listened to our vinyl of it on a weekly basis as a toddler, and according to the opening narration, the plant was found in the market on my birthday, "THE TWENTY THIRD DAY OF THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER, IN AN ERA VERY SIMILAR TO OUR OWN."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pictures From The Road to California

Trying to narrow my pictures down to a few representatives just wouldn't cut it, so here are the ~100 best in the beta version of Google's PicassaWeb. It was a great trip, and I really don't think there's an ugly state in the union.

Trip out west
Jul 16, 2006 - 97 Photos
You'll notice that there aren't any pictures in there of Giant Sequoia National Park. You'll also notice that some of the last pictures in the album are of giant mountains of pink sand and my camera in the midst of it. I actually did manage to take it all apart and clean the sand out of it, but my souldering skills weren't quite up to the task of getting it working again.

Other peoples pictures will have to suffice.

I'd write a little about the sights on the trip, but its too late at the moment, and all I could really do is bore you with superlatives anyways. Just take a trip sometime and go see Dead Horse Point and Sequoia National Park, and while you're at it drive around southern Utah for a while stopping at scenic points. They've got a place called "Panorama County," and they aren't kidding. Skip the Grand Canyon unless you've got the time to hike down into it. It's cool, but there's cooler.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hooray for Internet Access!

Behold the glory and the power of the fat pipe. After 3 weeks of waiting for an appointment, 4 hours waiting for a technician that didn't show, and 5 hours waiting for one that finally did, I finally have internet access. I'll post more later. I am now in California and I just finished the second day of my third week at Google. Unfortunately my camera is broken, so pictures of the new place will take a little while. Thankfully it broke late into the road trip so I have pictures from most of that. I'll post some later.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


I am now the proud owner of a dark blue 2006 Scion Xb!
From the research I did, I don't think any other car would have fit my needs nearly as effectively.

  • 30 city / 34 highway MPG
  • It's a foot and a half shorter than my mom's Corolla for easy parking.
  • I can sit up straight without being in danger of hitting my head on the ceiling, which is rare in cars this size.
  • There is enough room to comfortably take three people backpacking, and you could probably uncomfortably take four.
  • The visibility in the car is fantastic. The view from the driver's seat is virtually unobstructed in every direction, and you can see all four corners of the car which comes in handy for parking. The front windshield is panoramic.
  • The back seats are the most comfortable I've ever sat in, and are actually usable when I'm driving which is also rare in cars this size.
  • An auxiliary audio input comes standard in the form of an 8th inch audio jack under the parking brake, so no matter what you use to play music you can pipe it directly through the car speakers with nothing more than a cord.
The only real flaw I've found in the design so far is that the central cabin light puts the trunk area in shadow and there isn't a separate trunk light. I also wish car companies would start accomodating Nalgene's in their cupholders, but that's probably too much to ask until people stop drinking Coke. The car also isn't exactly aerodynamic, which doesn't produce as much noise as you might expect (it's actually pretty quiet,) but is probably the reason why it gets 34 MPG on the highway rather than something in the low 40s. Posted by Picasa

Fantastic Weekend in Pittsburgh

I spent my last weekend living on this side of the country in Pittsburgh visiting Lauren. We saw Water (which I highly recommend,) explored Frick Park, painted pottery for eachother, hung out with Ashleigh, visited Lauren's Uncle for a 4th of July party, and met up with Jules (former Soundbytes director) who happened to be in town for the weekend. Good times all around. Awwwwww. :) Soundbytes director lovin' Ashleigh's makes-me-oh-so-jealous apartment. Lauren, pretty in Oriental Express. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cincinnati Sunday with Lauren

The Krohn Conservatory is having their annual butterfly show. The deal is $6 to watch a horde of screaming kids pointing at butterflies and their parents hoisting them up in the hopes that a butterfly will land on them and make a good picture. The difference in oxygen levels between the jungle room of the conservatory and the room full of butterflies was palpable, but it was worth it just to see the atlas moth. Atlas moths are huge. A blooming Bonzai. Aglamesis' "French Quarter Petite" sundae is almost as big as an atlas moth but it tastes a lot better. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 04, 2006

More Gorge Pictures

Playing with fire Pink mountain laurel Millipede Fire

Red River Gorge with Neil

Neil and I took a trip down to Red River Gorge this week as a respite from our various responsibilities. Despite the heat and humidity it was refreshing and a good time. We grilled some great pork, hiked around, talked, played with fire. Unfortunately we missed the Rhododendrons blooming by a week or so, but the mountain laurel was still around and gorgeous. Mountain laurel by the trail Neil under Gray's Arch The Red River Girls swimming in the Red River