Thursday, February 28, 2008

Review: The Truth

Terry Pratchett is strangely witty--that's the best way I can think to describe his novel, The Truth. Published in 2000, this work of Pratchett is a great commentary on politics and news reporting of its time (and possibly the future).

The Truth is a fantasy novel that really has little to do with the fantasy world and more to do with social commentary and the search for the truth. It possesses all the fantasy elements--dwarfs, vampires, trolls, wizards, zombies, and the like--but only uses them in comic situations (or when poking fun at fantasy stories).

Pratchett's novel revolves around William de Worde, a man who is hired to write a brief newsletter every now and again for the elite citizens of Ankh-Morpork. His life changes drastically when some dwarfs turn lead into gold in a sense. Before encountering the dwarf Goodmountain, the newsletter was simply engraved and printed. The dwarfs use the lead to make movable type for a printing press--and the Ankh-Morpork Times is born. However, the engravers decide that de Worde's paper is a threat to their livelihood, and open a competing paper, The Inquirer, which simply runs stories that false yet interesting for the local populace.

The Times begins its life just as a devious plot to frame and unseat Patrician Vetinari unfolds. The plot involves outsiders, Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip, being paid to do the deed by whatever means necessary. De Worde finds himself in the middle of the scandal of Ankh-Morpork, frantically attempting to write the truth for the public to read.

Terry Pratchett's prose is witty and humorous--there are moments of brilliant insight and outright laughter. This is a work of fantasy that will appeal to aficionados of the genre as well as those who would rather not read book filled with dwarfs and vampires.


Time for a Vacation

This post is brought to you by Riverbend Angler Resort

Although it's been nice relaxing for an extra week due to the error in class scheduling, I'm already looking forward to this summer's break. Unfortunately, because my university is from the north of China, we're on the northern schedule. This means we get a longer winter break and a shorter summer, which is almost torture in the heat and humidity of Shenzhen.

One place I've wanted to visit for some time is Montana (and it has nothing to do with that kid of Billy Ray Cyrus). Montana vacation rentals do sound like an intriguing getaway. It seems like a bit too much luxury for adventure in the outdoors, but I'm sure there are plenty of people who would love some nature from the comfort of a cabin equipped with a 50-inch plasma TV. Personally, I'd enjoy the Bighorn River fly fishing--although I've only tried fly fishing once.

The Web site for the Montana cabin rentals and vacation packages is rather interesting. They provide some useful information about the area, including history of Fort Smith. The sire is easy to navigate and loads quickly (even on a slow connection from China Telecom). Unfortunately, I doubt I'll scrape up enough money by July to rent a cabin out there. If I'm lucky, I might persuade my wife to go camping--but that's not likely either. I suppose I'll just have to keep dreaming of my kind of vacation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Notes from America and a movie

I think Jia misses being in my hometown more than I do. She keeps talking about the food--specifically the pastrami at Harold's in Parsippany and Crif Dogs in NYC. I can try to cook some food that we got back home, but those two definitely cannot be recreated with my kitchen in China. Other foods we sampled were Greek, Indian, Japanese, Lebanese, Italian, Mexican, Cuban, Spanish, and Jersey Diner.

We watched Juno the other night. I can see why it got such positive reviews--it has a good story with interesting characters and wit. The dialogue sounds fairly natural and differentiates itself from most films I've watched. The father and step-mother are definitely the most amusing characters in the film; it's a shame they didn't get more screen time (but that probably would've ruined the story considering they're secondary characters). I'd place Juno as one of the top movies I've seen in the last year (note: I haven't seen any other Oscar-nominated movies).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Minor Delay

I had my first day of class for the new term today. Oops, not today.

Five students showed up to class and called their classmates to try to get them in as well. Twenty minutes into class, I was notified that they made a mistake and classes would begin next week. We had a good laugh about it. It gives me time to get myself better prepared for the term.

On another topic: Will a zombie still want to eat your brain if you have brain freeze? I'm stocking up on ice cream just in case.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I'm back

Jia and I have been back in Shenzhen for three days now. I'm still exhausted from the trip--I didn't sleep well on the flight or at the hotel in Hong Kong. I hope I can sleep better tonight to get myself ready for work on Monday--I think I have to teach resume writing.

Anyway, this week I'll begin writing up some more in-depth posts about our trip to the states, and I might even post a few photos (assuming I edit and resize them).

Other news from the land of the waiguoren: My new year's resolutions will begin now that Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) is over. This means that I will spend more time learning Chinese and writing those half-finished novels. I will also do my best to stick to a schedule with goals--my wife has permission to beat me if I don't.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Trip Update

I know I got lazy with the title of this one.

I'm exhausted and ready for my vacation to end. We spent last week in southern California with my grandparents. We didn't do much besides meet relatives and eat for four days. At least we got to Laguna Beach for a little while. Jia really enjoyed the area and I think she wants to move there--now, she has to convince me to do the same because I don't have any desire to move to California. I guess I just have to introduce her to Colorado this summer so she'll forget all about it.

After our return to New Jersey, we took a road trip to Washington, DC, for a few days. We had bad timing--the weather was terrible. We got to see quite a bit--the Capitol building tour, Native American museum, Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and few other brief stops in the area. I'm still amazed at how many Chinese tourists we ran into--Jia's been talking to all of them. I scared two girls on a school trip by saying, "bu ke qi," after taking a photo for them.

Monday, February 04, 2008


How does a team go 18-0 and lose in the Superbowl to the wild card team that was a double-digit underdog? Just ask the choke artists up in New England. Congratulations to the Giants for shutting up those damn Patriot fans.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Notes from the City

We managed to cover quite a bit of ground in New York City the last three days. I'm begining to think that I might be more overwhelmed than Jia. We visited monuments and streets that I've never been to even though I lived 45 minutes away for 23 years. I should also note that Jia loves the food so far--she's convinced that the reason Americans are so fat is simply because the food is so good.

Highlights from our journey include a visit to the Native American museum at the old Customs House, Federal Hall, MoMA, Chinatown, SoHo, Statue of Liberty (but we missed the last ferry to Ellis Island), and whole lot more of lower Manhattan. We both enjoyed the Native American museum--the art and cultural displays were beautiful. Jia was excited to see the original paintings at MoMA that she learned about years ago in school--and my aunt provided much better explanations that I could.
Now we're relaxing at my parents' house in Jersey--we may go to Philly tomorrow if the weather is good. We fly out to southern California Tuesday for a few days with my relatives.