Yet another so-so movie with Bruce Willis as the surly star.  Derivative in nature, but certainly the script had a few novel pieces.  Watching it on Netflix was good enough entertainment, given that it's hard to actually watch movies with a baby girl now!

Planting Fields Arboretum

We visited Planting Fields Arboretum, which is a very nice state park that used to be a private estate owned by William Coe and his wife.  (Coe made serious money in maritime insurance; his wife was the heiress of Standard Oil, which of course made her much richer than he.)  There are a number of buildings worth visiting on the estate.  Coe Hall is a beautiful old mansion that at one point was used by SUNY Stony Brook before their campus was built.  There are a number of old greenhouses that have some nice collections of plants.  All in all, worth visiting.

Against All Things Ending

I'm just guessing at when I finished reading this book (if you haven't noticed, I set the time on my posts for when I watch/read a book/movie/TV show, not when I post).  It was my first real Kindle book, and I found it to be an interesting experience reading a long novel on the Kindle.  First, the Kindle let me skim more than I already tend to skim in dense books (and the Covenant books are all dense, but more on the book itself later).  More surprisingly, though, because I use my Kindle every morning on my commute, it lets me reread much more frequently: I find that I've read the parts I initially skimmed over the last month or so.  So, all in all, a rich reading experience.  And the Kindle gives me far less eyestrain than my iPhone, because of the former's passive display.

As for Donaldson's latest book: it has all of the intensity and drama (melodrama, maybe) of his earlier novels.  Either you like it or you don't: and I like it.  His reinvention of the Land over three separate eras is fascinating, and well done.  The characters are a bit too caught up in their own pain, but it's almost cathartic to read of their travails.  All in all, highly recommended if you liked his earlier novels.

Mad Men Season Four

We watched the last few episodes while in Beijing (iTunes is wonderful in some ways).  It took forever to download the HD version, but it was worth the wait.  It was nice to see Don Draper happy at the end of season, although he again chose a weaker, supportive woman rather than the stronger one who constantly challenged him.  Heather Havrilesky at seems to view this as a tragic flaw in her recap of the episode: I view it as realistic storytelling about human choices.  The Faye character wasn't able to give Don what he really wanted, which was someone to take care of his family, and make his family easy to manage.

All in all, another fun season to watch.  As Don simplifies/cleans up his life, though, he is becoming less interesting as the central character.  But I'm sure the writers will keep the show compelling.  How will Betty react to the competition for "best mother" with Megan?


Remarkable what bad movies show up on HBO/Cinemax in the middle of the night, even in Beijing.  This movie is definitely not worth watching: it makes absolutely no sense.  But it kept me awake while tending to Penelope, at least!

Gran Torino

Another movie watched while keeping Penelope company late at night in Beijing.  A good Clint Eastwood movie, with an unexpected denouement.  The character played by Clint was like a retired version of Dirty Harry.

Enemy at the Gates

This taut movie about snipers during the Battle of Stalingrad was worth watching.  I just turned on HBO while keeping Penelope company early (ok, in the middle of the night) one morning in Beijing, and was able to concentrate on some of the film.  Jude Law was pretty good, as was Ed Harris; but my favorite character was played by Ron Perlman (Hellboy!).

Traveling to China

Traveling with an infant wasn't as bad as I had expected, which was
good (I deliberately expected the worst). But the time change of 12
hours meant that the first night in Beijing was not fun, to say the

Access to blogger from China was flaky at best, so I had to email the blog entries to blogger for later editing/entry (which is now, after we're semi-recovered from our trip back).

The Last Airbender

Watched this on the flight to China as well.  What a horrible movie!  The only redeeming factor was that I needed to do something while flying, so I let this movie have my attention.  I wonder if some studio will have the $ to waste to make the sequel?

Apparently this movie is based on a cartoon that received very high ratings.  I plan on eventually watching that, if I can find it.

Iron Man 2

Entertaining movie, if not that good.  It was fun to see the basic Avengers cast coming together.  Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow was quite amusing!  I watched this on the airplane, so it was almost impossible to hear the dialogue; which was fine, because it wasn't really that deep or necessary, from what I could tell.

Health Care Costs

Read these slides.  They are a great source of information about the American health-care system.