Wishing all a great New Year 2009!

2008 is winding down and man, it’s been a heckuva year. Am still working through and busy and not a lot of down time.

Still, got a chance to go out and hook up with some fellow walkers/hikers in HK through a Meetup Group. I really like it. So looking forward to more hikes and a bit of photography on the side too. Treated myself a nifty new Nikon D40 and I’m very happy with it. I also really liked Ken Rockwell’s site and donated as well.

Today I had my first alumni interview with a prospective student. This young precocious man was amazing. I felt stupid compared to him but was so energized by his youthful enthusiasm and outlook toward life. A very enjoyable 2 hour chat with him and his parents. I do hope he gets accepted.

Going into 2009, the operative word is to survive, build on for the future, try to improve on my health hopefully through regular hikes/walks, hobbies and forget about the work more. Continue going back to my blog and get a couple of IT certs here and there. And let’s see what happens!

Warmest wishes – be safe and joyful!

Eve of New Year’s Eve

On Sunday, I saw “Frost/Nixon” the movie – great watch and great cast. (Probably not a coincidence that the real original Frost/Nixon interviews are now out on dvd). Frank Langella oozed Nixonian in his portrayal as Nixon; Michael Sheen as Frost – well, I had no idea that Sir David Frost back in the day was so light-weight (ok, I’m not so familiar with Frost), and the rest of the cast was good too. Recommended.

I’m not a big enough movie-viewer to make a list of 2008 movies, but suffice to say that I really thought well of “The Dark Knight” and the films of AAIFF’08 and “Wall-E,” and even “Iron Man.” “Quantum of Solace” was also a decent watch. I didn’t hate the X-Files movie (although I’m probably the only one).

For 2008 in review, TV critic David Bianculli on his tv top ten list; and tv critic James Poniewozik on his tv worst list and his Tuned-In (mostly tv) Persons of the Year (and his top 10 best 2008 tv stuff and top 10 2008 tv episodes (I agree with Poniewozik – the Lost episode “The Constant” was quite an episode for 2008).

Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker also has his best/worst of 2008 lists (I agree with him on “Fringe” and “Lost” as among the best; and on his worst – “Knight Rider” and “The Moment of Truth (really shitty, FOX, really)).

EW also has a best and worst episodes list – sooo happy that they included the amazing “How I Met Your Mother” episode with Ted’s lovely 2 minute date.

Among the great pictures of 2008 in the year’s end issue of EW is a funny gallery of photos where the “How I Met Your Mother” cast pose in the year’s big events (the guys posing as the USA men’s swim team’s big gold win at Beijing 2008 Olympics and a posing from a scene in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” were strangely amusing to me for some reason).

My personal Top TV list for 2008 – which I had posted on Bianculli’s website and re-post here: (in no particular order and intentionally adding what others might not have mentioned, plus unnecessary commentary!):

1. “Fringe” (FOX) – I’m glad FOX is giving the series a shot; it seems to be getting stronger as the season continues – and I love the father-son relationship of Walter and Peter.

2. “Lost” (ABC) – what a season! Very interested to see what will happen when it returns.

3. “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS) – what fun was the end of last season, despite the strike! And this season has been some great laughs.

4. “Life” (NBC) – I was stunned that NBC renewed it after the strike-shortened first season, since I thought that series I liked wouldn’t succeed (and I liked it in 2007). But, the couple of episodes I caught this season was great fun, even if I still don’t quite appreciate the conspiracy storyline. Damian Lewis is great; and Adam Arkin and Sarah Shahi are underappreciated.

5. “Eli Stone” (ABC) – It was the fun series of spring 2008, and I was happy that ABC returned it. I missed much of this season, much to my regret; boo to ABC for cancelling it.

6. The Presidential coverage – for good or bad, this was quite a tv event of 2008; as I’m a PBS snob, kudos especially to Jim Lehrer and the Newshour crew for their work during this election year and Charlie Rose for his interviews and roundtables.

7. “Aliens in America” (CW) – sweet, short-lived series on friendship and family with good humor, and kudos for trying a little something different in the age of a more diverse America (when an American family hosts a South Asian Muslim foreign exchange student, things get amusingly complicated); I’ll even give a little kudos to CW for “Reaper,” which was a bit more fun than I expected.

8. Again, I’m a PBS snob, so I’ll also add “Great Performances” for its coverage of the NY Philharmonic’s concert in Pyongyang, North Korea (I even blogged about it); and “Masterpiece Theatre” (for continuing to give quality drama, even in such troubling financial times, which began awhile ago for “Masterpiece Theatre”/”Mystery” when they had to be under one umbrella), especially for rescuing me during the strike.

9. “Law and Order” (NBC) (the original/the mothership) – the 18th season (starting in Jan. 2008-May 2008, due to NBC’s scheduling shenanigans and then disrupted minimally by the writers’ strike) – during the strike had me watching; the cast of new detectives and the new ADA turned out to be more fun than I thought – and less of the melodrama of “SVU” and “Criminal Intent,” which relieved me (if it’s not obvious, I’m not a big “SVU” or “CI” viewer; just not my cup of tea). The 19th season of L&O so far has been also fun, keeping up with the quality of last season.

10. “John Adams” (HBO) – wow.

Extra credit to Letterman, Leno, O’Brien, and Ferguson for their efforts on late night tv this year.

For worst tv of 2008, I’ll nominate “Knight Rider” (NBC) (I may have grown up with and enjoyed the campiness of the original “Knight Rider,” but that doesn’t mean it had to come back, and in such poor execution), and I’ll also continue my disapproval of bad reality tv (of which 2008 seemed to have a lot).

Merry Christmas!

A thoughtful Christmas, as we’re in the middle of an economic crisis and two wars.

The passing of Eartha Kitt, actress/singer/political activist.

A NY Times article on President-Elect Obama’s Hawaiian attitude. We should all have a little Hawaiian zen in us during these hard times and the holiday stresses.

How Christian is Christmas? Considering that Christmas co-opted some pagan practices and then there are those secular tendencies of Christmas, maybe we should try to accept that Christmas is rich and more than we think it is. An op-ed by Laura Miller, regarding C.S. Lewis’ portrayal of Christmas in Narnia.

Columns by NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman to get us thinking about the state of things in the middle of the holiday season of 2008:

Kristof notes that studies out there suggest that so-called liberals don’t individually give as much as so-called conservatives, even though the so-called liberals expect the government to do more and conservatives don’t think it’s the government’s job at all to do much (ok, I’m simplifying). He raises the interesting questions of what does it really mean to be generous during this time of year, and does your political outlook affect your generosity?

Friedman passionately notes about what Americans must do (and I found myself whole-heartily agreeing):

My fellow Americans, we can’t continue in this mode of “Dumb as we wanna be.” We’ve indulged ourselves for too long with tax cuts that we can’t afford, bailouts of auto companies that have become giant wealth-destruction machines, energy prices that do not encourage investment in 21st-century renewable power systems or efficient cars, public schools with no national standards to prevent illiterates from graduating and immigration policies that have our colleges educating the world’s best scientists and engineers and then, when these foreigners graduate, instead of stapling green cards to their diplomas, we order them to go home and start companies to compete against ours.

To top it off, we’ve fallen into a trend of diverting and rewarding the best of our collective I.Q. to people doing financial engineering rather than real engineering. These rocket scientists and engineers were designing complex financial instruments to make money out of money — rather than designing cars, phones, computers, teaching tools, Internet programs and medical equipment that could improve the lives and productivity of millions. [….]

That’s why we don’t just need a bailout. We need a reboot. We need a build out. We need a buildup. We need a national makeover. That is why the next few months are among the most important in U.S. history. Because of the financial crisis, Barack Obama has the bipartisan support to spend $1 trillion in stimulus. But we must make certain that every bailout dollar, which we’re borrowing from our kids’ future, is spent wisely.

It has to go into training teachers, educating scientists and engineers, paying for research and building the most productivity-enhancing infrastructure — without building white elephants. Generally, I’d like to see fewer government dollars shoveled out and more creative tax incentives to stimulate the private sector to catalyze new industries and new markets. If we allow this money to be spent on pork, it will be the end of us.

America still has the right stuff to thrive. We still have the most creative, diverse, innovative culture and open society — in a world where the ability to imagine and generate new ideas with speed and to implement them through global collaboration is the most important competitive advantage. China may have great airports, but last week it went back to censoring The New York Times and other Western news sites. Censorship restricts your people’s imaginations. That’s really, really dumb. And that’s why for all our missteps, the 21st century is still up for grabs.

John Kennedy led us on a journey to discover the moon. Obama needs to lead us on a journey to rediscover, rebuild and reinvent our own backyard.

Merry Christmas!

Well, let’s try to have some hope and cheer: a clip of “The Hard Nut” from YouTube, as I tend to think that it’s never quite the holidays until I view multiple versions of “The Nutcracker.”