Birthday Dinner Party at M.Y. China

Martin Yan is the older guy on the left. He sat next to my wife! Eeeeee! *faints*
Martin Yan is the older guy on the left. He sat next to my wife! Eeeeee! *faints*

I went to a birthday party for a friend at a restaurant called M.Y. China.

At first I was sketpical as the restaurant is inside a mall in San Francisco.

Once we got there my face lit up and I got really excited. There was a sign out front of the restaurant that said, “Head chef Martin Yan is personally in the restaurant tonight.”

Martin Yan is a famous Chinese chef who’s hosted cooking shows for the last 30 years. He’s also written cookbooks, one of which I’ve bought in the past.

So M.Y. China isn’t some weird way of spelling My China. It’s “Martin Yan China!”

I got even more excited once we got in the restaurant because apparently the birthday girl’s dad is Martin Yan’s dentist. She is the dental hygienist who cleans his kid’s teeth when they go to the dentist.

Because of that we got a personal visit to our table from Martin Yan and some pictures! And when he talked to the table he put his hand on my back. I got touched by a famous person! Oh Boy!

The food was obviously excellent. We got a bunch of different dishes to share.

There was an amazing tofu dish in a thick soy sauce. There was sweet and sour pork. The pork was breaded like usual, but with something with the texture of bacon included in the breading.

There were scissor cut noodles with soy sauce covering them.

There was rice with soy sauce. That really pointed out to me how good the soy sauce was. It included peppers in it or something to make it taste way better than the normal Kikkoman soy sauce that everyone else uses.

There were sea food dumplings with peppers on top of them as well.

My mouth is watering while writing this. Unfortunately, I’m not a food critic so I can’t do the restaurant justice in this post. The food was amazing.

There were plenty of other dishes, but sadly not very many vegetarian ones. My wife got to eat some rice with spicy green beans. The green beans were good, but not as extraordinary as everything else at the restaurant.

Overall a great restaurant with great food!

-Mister Ed

The Hobbit Part 3 Movie Review

I finally convinced my wife to see one of “my movies” at the movie theaters!

My wife usually picks every movie we go out to see so it was exciting to finally see something that I wanted to see more than she did.

We saw The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, finally concluding Peter Jackson’s movies in Middle Earth and tying to the two trilogies together.

The movie contained a lot of the scenes I was waiting to see. Thorin’s last speech, Bard slaying Smaug with the black arrow, the arrival of the eagles once again. Awesome stuff!

The movie starts off with Smaug coming to burn Laketown. Everyone evacuates. Bard makes a last stand on the bell tower and shoots Smaug with the black arrow.

Smaug’s death is satisfying, but it feels like too big of a scene for the start of the movie. It would probably feel much better if the three movies were watched in sequence instead of just starting off with Part 3.

The next section of the movie concerns Thorin slipping into a greed-fueled madness called “dragon sickness” by the other characters.

The madness plays very similar to the corrupting power of the Ring in the Lord of the Rings movies. Thorin hears echoey voices, the camera rotates to oblique angles, and the soft whisper of Sauron can be heard just below the surface. It adds a supernatural element to Thorin’s madness and makes it more believable when he eventually shakes off the greed and returns to his former self.

The rest of the movie is almost exclusively what it says in the title, The Battle of the Five Armies. Tons of action scenes and no character development beyond some characters feeling sorry for the death of other characters.

But the action scenes! Woo! High notes include:

Bard riding a wagon down a flight of stairs into an ogre and stabbing the ogre with a spear.

Thorin and one of his dwarf buddies see a horde of goblins coming towards them and they say, “We can hold them off. There’s only about a hundred of them.”

Legolas fighting one of the orcs on a stone tower that has fallen over to construct a bridge between two cliffs. Every missed blow by the orc causes a chunk of the tower to collapse!

Thorin and Azog the White Orc’s final showdown on a frozen river.

The elf king riding on a elk mount that picks six orcs up by its antlers at once and tosses them all aside after the elf king decapitates them with one stroke.

The hilarity of the ogres in general. They’re used as battering rams by having them wear stone hats and then running into walls. They climb over shorter walls and the walls collapse under the ogres’ weight. I started to feel sorry for all the poor little ogres by the end.

Elrond, Saruman, and Galadriel take on the nine ring wraiths and win.

Dain, Thorin’s cousin, riding a pig and talking in an exaggerated accent while he headbutts orcs.

And so much more!

One of the more heartwarming parts is when Bilbo returns to the Shire. He hangs on to the Ring and within a few shots we see him slowly age until it’s his 111th birthday party and Gandalf is coming to see him once more.

Of course there are some things that the movie left out. Probably not necessary given how much time was devoted to action scenes, but it happened (or didn’t happen depending on your outlook).

The missing scene that I noted was how the eagles affected the battle. They showed up and that was about it. We still got to see Legolas and Thorin fighting the orc generals, but the actual soldiers were never seen again.

I also remember more of the 13 dwarves dying in the battle, but its been a long time since I’ve read the book. Perhaps my memory is just faulty.

Great action movie! Still felt true to the books as I remembered them. Almost a complete lack of character development and social drama though.

Thorin’s madness is supernatural and thus hard to sympathize with.

Bard slowly turns into a king, rejecting it at first, but accepting it later. Unfortunately this is a neglected side plot (accurately reflects its importance in the book though).

Bilbo’s desire for home is the only other social plot that had any realism in it. The other conflicts were predictable and bland.

But the epic fighting was why I went to the movie and it deliver on that count all the way!

-Mister Ed

I Used to Square Dance

Here's what I looked like when this story was taking place. Yeah...
Here’s what I looked like when this story was taking place. Yeah…

When I was about ten years old I took square dancing lessons.

I was homeschooled for most of elementary school and one of the other home school kid’s parents started a square dancing class.

I went to the first few lessons for free with a few other homeschool friends. Once we knew the basics we performed at a mall to try and attract other students.

I continued taking lessons after that, but my other friends stopped going. There weren’t a lot of replacements either. The mall performance ended up not panning out.

Often the lessons wouldn’t have enough people to form an eight person square. Even when we had enough people the girls always had to occasionally dance the men’s part (not that unusual for dance classes actually).

My mom kept taking me to the square dancing lessons for awhile. Thinking back on it now, part of the reason might’ve been because of the square dance teacher’s daughter.

We were about the same age and I can be fairly certain that she had a crush on me.

I think I would’ve felt the same way if I was into girls at that age, but I wasn’t yet.

I eventually told my mom that I wanted to stop going to the lessons. One of the other kids taking lessons there had really dry scaley skin and I didn’t like touching her skin when we danced because I thought I would catch leprosy from her or something.

Course I didn’t tell my mom that. I just told her that the time it took to drive to the lessons and back was about as long as the lessons took and I wasn’t really enjoying them.

My mom seemed a little bummed and I think it was because she’d wanted me to go on a date with the teacher’s daughter.

It’s probably for the best. The teacher’s daughter had curly hair and I’ve never liked curly hair. That relationship would’ve been even shorter than most middle school relationships (half a week instead of the usual week).

-Mister Ed

Paddington Movie Review

I saw the movie Paddington with my wife last weekend.

The movie is based off the Paddington Bear book series. I read a few of the books when I was a kid but remember almost nothing about them.

What I do remember is the visual appearance of Paddington and his unflagging politeness. I remember the books being similar to Stuart Little, but British instead of American. I also remember Paddington being a teddy bear in the books, but that’s wrong. He’s an unusual bear species from “darkest Peru.”

The movie starts off with old black and white news reel describing Paddington’s home in Peru. Soon Paddington must leave his home and travel to London where he plans to be adopted by waiting at a railroad station.

Our little hero stows away in a lifeboat aboard a cargo ship headed to London. He survives by bringing along an enormous supply of orange marmalade which we are a told “has all the daily vitamins and minerals a bear needs.”

Paddington meets the Brown family at the Paddington station in London. He goes to live with them until they can find the explorer who previously visited his family in “darkest Peru.” It’s no surprise that by the end of the movie Paddington has become part of the Brown’s family.

I wouldn’t want to give more away about the movie, but it struck me as extremely British.  There’s a flashback where the explorer is describing how civilized the bears in “darkest Peru” are. The people he’s talking to respond by saying, “Civilized? Surely they don’t play cricket?” I’m paraphrasing, but that is what the movie is like.

The movie is a fun family experience. Although I’ve read some of the Paddington books, I can’t say if a true fan of the books would enjoy the movie or not. I can say that if you liked Stuart Little then you will like Paddington. A talking animal is accepted into a classical nuclear family in both books/movies. What more do you really need to know? Just that description tells you what the movie will be about. It has a few jokes, but is mostly about the warm fuzzy feelings you get from the tender moments in the movie. And having something you can watch with children.

That’s all for today!

-Mister Ed

Bucket List

Around Thanksgiving last year I made a bucket list for myself. A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die (kick the bucket).

So here’s the list along with why I want to do each thing.

1. Finish my Things Fall Apart screenplay and attempt to turn it into a movie.
I read Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, in high school and one of my first thoughts upon finishing it was, “This would make an awesome movie.” I set out to find the movie and… there isn’t one. There is a TV show, but it was produced in Nigeria and I couldn’t find a DVD version available in the USA. I started a screenplay adaption of the book and also seriously considered going to Bard for college where Achebe taught while he was still alive. I’d still like to see a movie of Things Fall Apart and with no one else working on it as far as I know, it’s up to me! I would have to get permission from Achebe’s family at some point though.

2. Have kids.
Pretty simple American dream stuff here. I like children a lot. I want to have some of my own.

3. Coach soccer for my kids.
This was one of the big things that my dad and I did together to bound when I was a kid. He coached my AYSO soccer teams so I got to hang out with him a lot over the years. I’d like to have the same sort of bond with my kids.

4. Attend a dance recital for my kids.
While I played soccer as a kid, my wife did dancing. Since I want our kids to play soccer it’s only fair that they dance too. I can’t teach dancing, but I can still support my kids doing it by going to see them.

5. See Wicked.
People have been telling me how good this musical is ever since it came out and ten years later I still haven’t see it or the movie. I should fix that before I die.

6. Go to a secluded ruin in Greece.
I love ancient Greek and Roman culture. I visited Rome and Athens with my sister in high school. I got to see a lot of the still intact buildings while I was there like the Pantheon, Partheon, Colosseum, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. I’d like to see other ruins that are in more secluded areas instead of being in the downtown tourist places of capital cities. Greece has plenty of secluded islands with ancient ruins in the Aegean, so I’d like to go to one of those. Preferably with my wife coming along.

7. Learn ancient Greek.
Part of the whole loving ancient Greek and Roman culture. There wouldn’t be much purpose to knowing ancient Greek beyond doing it for its own sake. I might be able to read the Iliad in the original language but I have a feeling that I’d still enjoy the translated version better because I wouldn’t need to look up what a word means every five lines. Still! I wanna learn ancient Greek!

8. Have a popular website/attached sites.
This site. The one you’re on right now. And/or the Twitch and YouTube channels I’ve started up.

9. Design something for a video game that is actually used in that video game later on.
I’d like this to be through merit along. Something like designing a champion for League of Legends that Riot Games actually uses in the game. That’s unlikely because A) Riot avoids using fan made ideas to avoid copyright issues, and B) I might not be good enough at designing video game concepts to pull this off. If all else fails a few of the larger rewards for video game Kickstarter campaigns allow you to create something for the game. If merit doesn’t pan out for whatever reason, I can always use money.

10. Buy a house.
More American dream stuff. Pretty simple. I think most people want a place to live that belongs to them and them alone.

11. Do a dance routine with my wife to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”
When I was in elementary school I went to a sleepover camp. One night there was a dance where all the kids and the counselors got together, danced, hung out, and watched movies. Two of the counselors did some sort of choreographed routine to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” that amazed me ever since. I’d like to replicate it in some way with my wife.

12. Finish the novel/novel series I’ve been working on called Light’s Shadow.
I had a recurring dream when I was a kid where I inserted myself into various TV shows and comics that I watched/read. I started writing a novel of it and I’d like to finish it before I die. I’d also like to publish it before I die, but given that the premise of the novel includes about a dozen copyrighted works, I doubt that’s happening. I might be able to put it on a fan fiction website though.

13. Finish the Gurutama campaign setting and create a PDF of it that I can upload here.
In the process of doing this one on here already. The end goal is to have something that resembles an official D&D campaign setting in one document. Illustrations, borders, page numbers, etc. The whole thing.

14. Invent a cool biology thing.
One of my idols is Sir William Lawrence Bragg, the youngest scientist to ever win the Nobel prize at 25 years old. He, along with his father, invented X-ray crystallography which was used to discover the double-helix structure of DNA and many other molecular structures. Unfortunately it is virtually impossible to get the Nobel prize at that age today. Nobel prizes in the sciences are often given ten years after an initial experiment as the Nobel committee waits for others to replicate the work of the original discoverer. Most people don’t have amazing scientific discoveries until they’re at least 25 years old which would make it difficult to copy Sir William Lawrence Bragg. I’d still like to do something of scientific significance. Hopefully something to do with endosymbiosis, but I’ll take whatever the world ends up giving me.

15. Go camping in Yosemite with my wife and kids.
My family did this a lot when I was a kid and I really liked it. Got to keep the tradition alive!

And there you have it. My bucket list objectives as of January 2015.

-Mister Ed

Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 22

Previous: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 21

This post sees the start of the Shanties around Hykma. The Shanties are similar to suburbs or slums, depending on what neighborhood you’re in. We also see the start of the Merfolk Blockade that influences a lot of subsequent events in the third age of our Dawn of Worlds campaign. Everyone is going to start scrambling to get around the Blockade to continue the profitable trade with Hearthland. And of course the Grez continue to expand and no one does anything about it.

704 NA: The Grez animated the frozen corpses of the humans in the north. To lead their new undead army, the Grez reanimated the Hero. The world shuddered at the still foreboding presence in the arctic.

705 NA: The splendor and draw of the glowing city of Hykma continued – incredible wealth resided in the city and the Elven Gardens were hailed as one of the great wonders of the modern world. The government began to solidify as the old blood princes and their merchant counterparts established themselves as proper lords. A new order was formed and a new constitution written. The Revered Administration now ruled over the Hykman League.

Meanwhile, the poor and disenfranchised in Hykma were slowly forced out through zoning and vagrancy restrictions. The Elves sheepishly closed the gates of Rotandean, apologizing yet refusing to accept the flow of refugees. The masses turned east, heading down the river toward Pulchrito, Domicilius, and The Hearth. The Rana were gracious hosts, but unable to host the numbers in either of their own cities. With the help of the Monks of the Gossamer Waves and the “gracious charity” of the Hykman Administration, shanty towns popped up all along the rivers, spreading from the base of the mountains at Hykma to the Tonsil Lake, and then more stretching from Domicilius to The Hearth. Impoverished at first, soon wealth began to trickle down from Hykma and The Hearth as merchants saw consumers and laborers in the Shanties. The Shanties grew in splendor. Festivals were common along the rivers and colored lanterns and lights adorned the long stretches of water and cobblestone roads.

709 NA: Profits in the Maw soared. Peace bred wealth, new power, and an influx of new blood into the old aristocracies of Najar, the Hykman League, and the pirate princes of Balkus.  Tensions rise. The seas were not as safe as they once were and piracy was rampant. Merchants begged their governments for protection and demanded action. The cities of Hykma, Cynelle, Alixria, Alrdia, and Balkus each raised a “defensive” fleet and begin to patrol their waters.

710 NA: The Grez froze the area connecting Glacierstone, the Upper Maw, and Hearthland. Reesrevo used his godly power to animate the entirety of the frozen Najar people as a new race of people. An undead race entered the world as servants of the Grez. The world was shocked and horrified, but no one would take action against the Grez. Commanders feared that while their army was away fighting the Grez, another city-state in the Upper Maw would attack their home city.

711 NA: The Merfolk, frustrated by the latest threat to their naval supremacy, unveiled new advances in the craft of shipbuilding and naval patrolling. New fleets were constructed in Drolfo’s Cove, New Tortuga, and Cyflenwi. The Merfolk flexed their new naval muscles by setting up a blockade across the Mouth of the Maw from the ruins of Nanatok to Cynelle. The people of Drolfo demanded reasonable tariffs for passage in and out of the Maw. This blockade was in response to the raising of Proaxium by the Dwarves. The blockade would end only if Proaxium was returned to Merfolk custody. The Merfolk blockade sent chaotic ripples through the Human trade networks. Dwarven goods were in high demand and prices soared. The Mouth of the Maw had always been the only free and safe route to Dwarven lands. Where would the Humans get their fine Dwarven luxuries now?

-Mister Ed

Next: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 23

NorCal Preview Gymnastics Meet

My wife and I went to the NorCal Preview Gymnastics Meet this weekend. The meet was held at UC Davis between the women’s gymnastics teams of UC Davis, Sac State, San Jose State, Stanford, and UC Berkeley.

Cal (UC Berkeley) won the meet. My wife and I had a lot of fun watching the different competitors. She recognized a few people that she knew previously from her time at SJSU and UC Davis. I thought I recognized one of the Sac State gymnasts as one of the people I’d taught last semester, but I ended up being wrong about that.

Here are some pictures from the floor and beam events. Vault pictures don’t look that amazing and we sat too far away from the bar event to get good pictures of that. I hope you enjoy stills of close to Olympic level gymnasts! Stanford is on beam and Cal is on floor.

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-Mister Ed

Christmas 2014 Events

I’ve been putting off my post about Christmas for awhile. I was busy spending time with my family during Christmas break and didn’t set aside time to write then, but I am now!

My wife and I went home to visit our families. Her parents and mine live in the same town, so its easy to see both families when we have a break. We stayed with my family this time and brought our cats, Lucky and Carmelita, along.

We got to spend some quality time with both families, chatting, going on walks, playing minigolf, and playing card games.

The big news of the break was that my wife’s uncle (my uncle-in-law? Is that a thing?) is moving to Taiwan. He’s a doctor right now. He’s in his late 50’s, but he doesn’t have any kids. It’s likely that he’s saved enough for retirement at this point, although he isn’t calling this retirement. He plans to work on something else in the future, but it isn’t clear what that is.

His wife is from Taiwan and they’ve gone there plenty of times to visit her family, so it makes sense for them to move there. She works over the internet which she can do just as easily in Taiwan as she can in the USA until she chooses to retire.

The crazy part of this whole plan was that they plan to keep some sort of residence in Nevada even though they currently live in California. It was a little confusing to us, but it seemed to be for tax reasons.

And of course the most important part of any Christmas break, WHAT PRESENTS DID I GET?!??

First, we got two huge bags to carry all the loot in, one for my wife’s stuff and one for my things. We got a decorative glass apple which we’d like to display once we move to a place with more room. Our space for decorative items is filled up in our current apartment.

We got an ice tray specifically made to produce long and thin pieces of ice to put into travel bottles. A lot of candy, some candied popcorn, and my favorite, a chocolate orange.

I got two movies, one is a favorite of mine, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The other is Pirate Radio, something my dad claims I said I wanted a while back, but I have no memory of. It has a lot of my favorite actors in it though so I will most likely enjoy watching it.

I got a new iPad keyboard which I am using to write this post. It’s amazing and I love it. I got the Villainy board game that I played at Fake Chinese New Year’s Eve. I got an Imagine Dragons CD. I got a cool book, On Killing, that was recommended in the Harcore History podcasts. It’s about the costs and methods of training people to kill in modern society (soldiers mostly, but it touches on the media influence of other forms of violence as well).

I got an electric razor to give myself the 5 o’clock shadow shave that I’ve been wanting. I got a pair of bacon and egg magnets for my fridge. I got a Snow Wars t-shirt. It shows Han Solo and Chewbacca having a snowball fight, only they are illustrated in Calvin and Hobbes art style as if Han Solo is Calvin and Chewie is Hobbes.

I got a puzzle and a new pair of scissors (I did want these things). I got a new lab coat to wear at work. I got a hand blender due to a mixup on my Amazon wish list (might still use it!). I got all of the Hardcore History podcasts that are no longer available for free on iTunes (Awesome!). I got a cookbook solely for making stuff in the microwave. I’ve looked up recipes like that in the past and I’m very happy that there is a whole cookbook devoted to microwave recipes.

My wife got us a pair of shirts to wear. She got me a bread knife. I also got her a bread knife. There was a miscommunication. She got me Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods which I’d been wanting for a long time. She got me a ton of funny hats as well. I now have a pizza hat, a viking helmet, and a Poro hat (Poros are cute and fuzzy League of Legends animals).

Soooo many presents. Fortunately, most of them are small and I was able to find places for all of them. Let me know what presents you got! Or just your favorite one!

-Mister Ed