Friday, March 30, 2007

Another Bruise Update

Well, the bruise maxed out at the size of a dollar coin. It’s already growing fainter, just a greenish-gray smear across my cheek. By the time I got up this morning, I had the full range of motion back in my face, which is good because eating yesterday was somewhat difficult, when I couldn’t open my mouth to normal bite-width. My cheek and teeth still hurt, but I imagine that will taper off over the weekend. But it's been a fascinating experience, and I should be able to write better descriptions when my characters get bruised up now.

In other news . . . uh, I have no other news. My life is kinda dull. Sorry ‘bout that.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bruise Update

I’m on my lunch break now. Since this morning, the bruise on my cheek has grown to about the size of a quarter and has taken on a decided greenish cast. It’s actually rather fascinating.

Still hurts like the dickens, though. I’m not sure whether the ibuprofen is working, since that cheek is still bulged out like a squirrel’s.


I went to bed early last night with a headache. At the time I turned out the lights and pulled up the covers, the whole left side of my face was still completely numb from my dental work. I slept very poorly, getting up four times during the night. The headache continued to worsen, and as the anesthetic wore off, my tooth and jaw started to hurt as well. I assumed that was normal, since I’d just had a filling. I continued to dose myself with ibuprofen (because of the headache), although eventually the headache got so bad that it triggered a true migraine in the middle of the night, and I had to take one of my special prescription migraine pills ($20 apiece).

After that, the headache subsided. But even as that pain went away, the pain in my tooth, jaw, and now cheek grew steadily worse. This morning when I got up for good and looked in the mirror, I saw why. My left cheek is visibly swollen, and a faint blue-gray spot the size of a nickel is emerging.

When my dentist gives the anesthetic injection before drilling a tooth, he always grabs my cheek and tugs, to distract me from the needle. But he’s never left an actual bruise before! He was just really rough about it this time. Maybe he was distracted watching Oprah (see previous post).

And as for the tooth he worked on, it is now very sore and sensitive, and I keep getting little shocky bursts from it. I don’t doubt that he saw a cavity that needed to be filled, but I never felt anything. I had absolutely no toothache or discomfort leading up to this filling. And now the only thing distracting me from the new pain in that tooth is the greater pain in my bruised cheek.

So I’m going to continue to pop ibuprofen through the day in the hopes that I can get the swelling down. Still, I wonder if anyone at work will ask who hit me? And if so, will I try to make up some silly story about an escaped kangaroo rampaging through the grocery store, or will I just say, “My dentist beat me up.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

TV at the Dentist’s Office

There are televisions in every exam room at my dentist’s office, ostensibly for the patients to watch. But while I was there getting a filling today, the dentist came rushing in talking about Sidney Poitier on Oprah, and changed it over to that channel. I like Oprah and I like Sidney Poitier, but it worried me a bit to know that my dentist was actively interested in the show. I’d prefer that someone drilling into my teeth not have any distractions.

Which brings me to the point that televisions are so ubiquitous now that it’s downright annoying. There are TVs in every corner of my grocery store, bombarding us with commercials. There’s a television in the post office for while we’re standing in line. When I go across campus for a cup of coffee, I’m subjected to CNN on the student center wall. More and more stores, restaurants, waiting rooms, etc. have TVs glaring down at us. Where does one go for quiet? Where can one sit and read without having to tune out the background media chatter?

It reminds me of the telescreens in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which were in every room and couldn’t be turned off. Of course, those were two-way devices, used for communication and surveillance as well. Perhaps that will be the next phase, once we are fully numb to the inescapable omnipresence of screens.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

American Born Chinese

Last night I read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (New York: First Second, 2006), a full color graphic novel which won he Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and was also a finalist for the National Book Award. Such honors are well deserved. At times hilarious and at times poignant, it is an excellent story.

The chapters jump between three different stories which eventually weave together. The apparent main story features Jin Wang, the American born Chinese boy of the title, and his life at school in an unnamed American town, from his friendships with the only two other Asians in his school to his crush on a white girl. The second tale features the Monkey King, and while his story is recognizably the Buddhist legend, there are modern and even Christian elements. The third story features Danny, a blond-haired, blue-eyed kid, and his cousin Chin-Kee, who is the amalgam of every awful, painful Chinese stereotype. How these three stories manage to come together, I’ll let you discover for yourself if you read it.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First Flower of Spring

This is field speedwell, the first flower I've seen this spring. It is growing right at the edge of the parking lot by my apartment complex. For all I know, there are flowers growing all over the place, and I just haven't noticed them because I haven't been out much. But I'm still excited.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Patapata Hikousen no Bouken

I just finished watching the fansubs of the anime Patapata Hikousen no Bouken, known in English as Secret of Cerulean Sand for its more-than-passing resemblance to Secret of Blue Water. It’s not commercially available in the U.S., and I don’t know if any company has plans to release it. If not, it’s a shame because it’s actually quite a good series. What the plot lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in charm.

The animation is not great, but not bad either. The music is mediocre, and I found it distracting as often as not. However, the characters are engaging, and the story is great fun. Its pseudo-nineteenth-century setting bursts with bad science in a grand Jules Vernesque sort of way.

Jane is a young girl with a passion for inventing and a dream of flying. When her scientist brother is reported dead on an expedition to the East, she refuses to believe it and sets off in search of him, dragging her long-suffering butler along as her chaperone. Along the way, they gain a dachshund and a street urchin, both characters who start as comic relief and end as heroes. In fact, there weren’t any characters who I would jettison from the cast. You know some stories have annoying characters who serve no purpose? This isn’t one of them. Not only did I like all of the heroes and their allies, but I also felt that everyone had a well defined role in the plot.

Within the first few episodes, I developed a comfortable notion about the type of series I was watching. Good kid’s show. Not great, but pretty decent. I expected it to be the type of show where nothing truly horrible happens and no major characters die. It turned out I was wrong about the last part. I won’t spoil it with any clues as to who didn’t make it, but I will reassure you that the deaths had literary merit and were meaningful and appropriate to the story.

I should also mention that merely eight episodes into the series, I abandoned my standard practice of one-episode-per-sitting and blasted through the remaining eighteen episodes in five days. In fact, tonight I watched the final eight episodes all in one sitting. (Obviously, I didn’t do anything else this evening!) As with a good novel that you just can’t put down, I couldn’t stop myself from jumping into the next episode.

If you can get ahold of it, I recommend this series highly. Very good stuff.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Barrel of Monkey King

My friend’s movie-of-the-month was the 1967 Hong Kong flick Cave of the Silken Web, a tale of the Monkey King. I’m arachnophobic, so when I first read his invitation, the “silken web” part sent me into a panic. But I googled it and saw that the “spiders” were just scantily clad women, and then I started looking forward to it.

And I was not disappointed. If you like cheesy, goofy B-movies, add this to your must-watch list. The costuming was great in the sense that it was bright, colorful, and eye-catching, and terrible in the sense that it was . . . well, terrible. For example, no attempt was made to use makeup to hide the transition between Pig’s plastic snout and the actor’s face, and you could see his real ears nestled inside his big floppy ones. Honestly, I’ve seen grade-school trick-or-treaters with better costumes.

But the movie was hilarious, loaded with more cases of mistaken identity than all the Shakespearian comedies put together, lots of slapstick, kung fu, bad singing, and a wide array of special effects that might have been good in 1967 but which look painfully lame now. Most of the characters were incurably stupid, although Monkey sometimes did some very clever things. All in all, I have to give it a thumbs up for sheer cheese.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pet Food Recall in the News

I saw in the news this morning that kidney failure deaths of some cats and dogs have been traced to certain foods manufactured by Menu Foods and marketed under many brands (37 brands of cat food and 46 brands of dog food). Only specific brands and flavors are affected.

If you have cats or dogs, please go to Menu's website and look at their lists and make sure you don't have any of the affected types for your pets. I saw some kinds I've fed my cats within the last year, but nothing that's in my cupboard now. If you're getting ready to go out and buy pet food, it might be a good idea to read the whole list to make sure you can avoid the dangerous ones, in case the stores haven't gotten them all pulled from the shelves yet.

Read the press release if you want, then go under the product information links for lists of brand names, which will take you to Excel spreadsheets of specific flavors, packaging styles, and product codes.

Friday, March 16, 2007

On the Fast Train to Loony Town

At work today I needed to log into a particular system I haven't used for quite some months. My user ID and password did not work. I thought it was supposed be the same user ID and password as for two other related systems that I have used recently, but when I tried accessing those systems, they didn't work either. I have no memory of changing this password. I tried to login again, and again, and again, attempting absolutely every password I have ever used on any system at work or home in the last ten years. Nothing worked. All I can figure is that the system automatically changed it for me without any kind of notice.

So I went to the web form where I could change my password or have them e-mail me a new one. But instead of my usual user ID, it wanted my organizational number (not my personnel number, which is totally different) and its accompanying PIN. Well, I didn't know the PIN, not having needed to use it for more than two years. To get it e-mailed to me, I needed to enter--you guessed it--the user ID and password. To get A, enter B. To get B, enter A. Chicken and egg. "Congratulations, you are screwed."

With my personnel number and its password--which worked just fine--I could easily get into one of the other staff systems. (As you can probably guess by now, there are several, and they don't play nice with each other.) Of course, from that system, there is no way to get or change a password or PIN for any of the others.

So my next step was to contact the help desk. They told me I needed yet another PIN, and that to get this, I needed to go to the other building. Okay, fine. So I went to the other building, and with the help of two different staffers, I discovered that I have two different PINs associated with the organizational number. Both of them are valid in different places, and I can not change one to make them the same. To get the password for my user ID, I need to enter the organizational number with the correct one of the two PINs.

Finally, it was done, I had a new password, and I was able to get into the systems I wanted to get into. But by that time an hour had passed and I was too frustrated and disgruntled to actually do that task. So I went back to my regular work, which was in ample abundance to keep me occupied for the rest of the day.

But here it is in a nutshell. For work, I have three different unique personal identifiers, beyond my actual name.
1) a user ID, which doubles as an e-mail alias and triples as a network login, and requires unrelated passwords for all of these manifestations.
2) an organizational number, which has two different PINs for different subsystems.
3) a personnel number, which has yet another completely different password.

And, I'm told, there is yet another system with yet another PIN that some people (not me, thank goodness) have to deal with.

How on earth do they expect people to remember all this crap?

Monday, March 12, 2007


I just finished reading all four of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea novels. Any fantasy fans who have not read these really ought to. They are wonderful.

A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), the first book, is probably the most accessible. Which is as any first book of a series should be. This story builds the world and lays the foundation for the other stories, but it could stand alone, if someone chose to read only one. However, but it becomes much stronger in the light of the rest of the series.

While A Wizard of Earthsea is a grand adventure with a wild chase, The Tombs of Atuan (1970) is much more introspective. Both are tales of self discovery, but since they focus on different characters, the flavors of the stories are very different.

The Farthest Shore (1972), which completed the original trilogy, reclaimed the original air of adventure the first book possessed. Although all three books told tales of struggle against great darkness, they were themselves not truly dark books, or at least they did not seem so to me.

Decades later, with an obviously different perspective on life, LeGuin returned to Earthsea to add a fourth book, Tehanu (1990). Nearly twice the length of any of the previous books, Tehanu is profoundly different in tone. The darkness is real, palpable. The first three books speak often of the dark. The fourth speaks less of it, but shows more of it. There were times I had to put the book down and pace around the room, shaking, angry. I felt the emotions of the characters much more deeply than in the earlier books. While the original trilogy seemed to be written for young people, Tehanu is an adult story. It makes sense, in a way. The author and the original readers of the trilogy would have grown up, so of course the world would have matured.

I doubt one could read Tehanu without first reading the original trilogy. You have to know the characters’ histories to feel the full power of it. But it brings the story to a good and satisfying end, bringing together all of the lost threads of the previous books.

Altogether, the Earthsea books are superb. LeGuin is a skilled writer, painting vivid mental images. The stories are interesting and the characters engaging. I recommend this series highly.

On a tangental note, the reason I decided to read this series was because I heard that the latest Studio Ghibli movie is Gedo Senki/Tales from Earthsea. I’m sure it will bear as little resemblance to LeGuin’s books as Howl’s Moving Castle did to Diana Wynne Jones’s, however I have yet to see a Studio Ghibli movie that wasn’t good. (Then again, this is also Goro Miyazaki’s first movie--and although his father is practically a deity, Goro is untested--so we shall see.) Looking online, I see that it was actually released in Japan months ago, although it won’t be in the U.S. any earlier than 2009. Bummer. That’s a long wait.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Sorry I haven’t been updating this blog much lately. I just haven’t been in a mood to be online. I’m still not, but I figured I ought to post something, to let people know I’m still alive.

The weather today was phenomenal, perfect in every way. It’s so nice having the windows open, to get the stale air out of the apartment. One treat was the sight of one of the neighbor children in a short sleeved shirt making snowballs with the last of the big, melting drift in the back yard, then throwing them at his mother.

One of my relatives, a young boy with a passion for coin collecting, noticed that the edge lettering on the new presidential dollar coins does not always face the same direction. If you line up a bunch of coins with George Washington’s face up, the edge lettering will be right side up on some of the coins and upside down on others. Nifty. I don’t know if one is more valuable than the other. I’ll keep one of each and continue spending the rest of my dollar coins.

And no, I don’t have any of the rare Washington dollars that are missing the edge lettering altogether. I wish I did!

Oh, and I’ll go on record as saying that I hate daylight savings time and think it’s a ludicrous concept.

Okay, so this post was far more random than most. Maybe I’ll get my act together and write something better soon. Or maybe not. I just don’t know yet.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Rippled Moon

There was a lunar eclipse last night, but I missed it. This wasn't the right part of the world for the best view, but we should have been able to see something. But when I went out after moonrise (which would have been after totality anyway), I couldn't see anything because of the buildings across the street. Alas.

At least this morning, I have a lovely view of the bright full moon as it sinks toward the western horizon, like a platinum disc with silver spots and a gold rim around the lower edge. I live in an older building, so the glass panes of the windows are warped and sagging. Thus, every time I move my head, my view of the moon changes dramatically, rather like a series of funhouse mirrors, or a reflection in wind-stroked water. It seems like fingers of the half-light blue sky are bending the edges of the moon, like the fingertips of a hand clutching it from behind. At certain angles, the deformity of the glass is great enough that unbroken blue bars appear to cross the moon.

I’d always thought of these old, rippled windows as an irritation, but if I take them as part of the view rather than an obstruction to it, it’s a rather neat sight.