Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dr. Roxanne Beaugh Benoit Raine

This post is a few days late but we've been pretty busy since we left Enschede last Friday for a two week visit to Lafayette. On Sunday night, all the hard work and time that Roxi has put in to her research and dissertation culminated in her graduation from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a Doctorate of Philosophy in Cognitive Science. I am so proud of her accomplishment and decision to stick it out even though it was very, very hard at times. She was one of only nineteen PhDs this semester and the only graduate in Cognitive Science from UL this year. Congratulations Dr. Roxanne Beaugh Benoit Raine!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"The Incident"

Another season of LOST is over and now we only have one left. I'm still not sure what I think about this season as a whole but I am intrigued with where the show will go next year. Unfortunately, there is that pesky eight month hiatus! As far as finales go, I liked it but so far nothing has topped the shocking ending of the Season 3 finale. I suppose it is fitting that the end of Season 3 was the plateau since it was the middle of the series. But what about this season?


Like I said, I enjoyed this episode more than the past few this season, albeit it was still frustrating especially with the way that it ended. I thoroughly enjoyed the way that the episode started, but I am terribly perplexed by the interaction between Jacob and whoever the other guy was. Are we to assume that the ship out in the ocean is the Black Rock or is the other guy from the Black Rock? And why couldn't the other guy kill Jacob?

I loved the flashbacks showing Jacob's interaction with our characters throughout their lives. It was fun trying to figure out who the children were in the flashbacks before it was revealed (i.e. Kate, Sawyer). It seems that those visited by Jacob were always destined for the Island, but it makes me curious of those characters who have died along the way and if they might have also been visited by Jacob. I guess it doesn't matter since they served their Island purpose, so to speak.

It was nice seeing Rose, Bernard and Vincent again. I like their attitude about life now that they have been stuck in the 1970s for three years. I especially liked the comment about how they can't believe that the Losties keep shooting at each other after all this time. Very great point! So does this mean that Rose and Bernard will likely end up as Adam and Eve in the caves from Season 1? Maybe, but there would still need to be an explanation of the black and white stones in their pockets.

Jack stayed on his mission to detonate Jughead at the site of the Swan Station. In the process he did and said the stupidest thing that he has uttered on the show to date referring to his relationship with Kate and his rationale for detonating Jughead: "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be." He thinks that by blowing up the bomb and erasing the last three years, he and Kate, who will never meet in the alternate future, will somehow manage to live together happily ever after. Stupid!!! If I ever need a spinal surgeon, I hope he or she will not try to intellectualize too much and just worry about fixing my spine! I'm very glad that Miles brought up the idea that Jack setting off Jughead could actually be what causes their fate, not what will prevent it. I think we have all suspected this for a while. Pretty much everything that the Losties have done since arriving in the 1970s has set in motion things that would ultimately cause them problems in the future. It's like the Room 23 brainwashing film said: "We are the causes of our own suffering."

I was pretty worried about Sayid. In fact I still am. He wasn't in very good shape at all after getting shot in the gut. Since I'm not sure what exactly happened at the end of the episode, I'm still not sure of his fate, but I was thinking that he was not going to survive throughout most of the episode. And what of Juliet? It was no surprise to me that she was going to die, or at least appear to, because of her casting in a remake of V this fall. That kind of info comes out so early it makes keeping a surprise like that nearly impossible. But she somehow managed to survive her fall down the shaft and presumably detonate Jughead with a rock. I suppose what I found most interesting about the final "LOST" title screen is that it was a negative image with black letters over a white background. I really hope this doesn't mean that the plan was successful and that we have entered some sort of new reality where things are inverted. I only hope it was felt that this was the best way to segue into the final credit after the blinding white flash.

All that was very important and the obvious source of the title of the episode, but I think that the more important incident happened in 2007 on the beach at the statue. It seems that something is very different about John Locke since the Ajira plane crash: he is most certainly dead. I have to hand it Roxi; she knew what was in the box as soon as Ilana and Bram showed it's conents to Frank Lapidus. I didn't believe her until we both saw it at the end of the episode. Kudos to Roxi as she also figured out the shocking twist early on in the season finale of Fringe this week. She's two-for-two in J.J. Abrams produced show finales this year! So if Locke was not resurrected, who have we and everyone on the Island been seeing as Locke? Based on what he and Jacob discussed at the end, it sounds like he is the spirit of the man who could not kill Jacob at the beginning of the episode.

So here's my thinking: Christian Shepard has been seen walking around the Island since the beginning of the series but he was dead before the crash of Oceanic 815. We have seen him helping Locke get off the Island both with the frozen donkey wheel and with directions in Jacob's cabin...the same cabin that Ilana ordered burned because "someone else has been using it." It is my contention that the spirit that Locke heard ask for help in Jacob's cabin was not Jacob, but rather the guy who wanted to kill Jacob in the beginning of the episode. Somehow, the ring of ash was keeping him in the cabin, but with Locke's help, he was able to leave the cabin and inhabit Christian and eventually take the place of Locke. And now that entity has managed to get Ben to presumably kill Jacob.

So where do we go from here? Well I'm not sure what to expect from those Losties that were in the 1977, but I don't really expect that they have changed the future. As far as "Locke" and the Others, I think that Ilana and her team are the "good guys" as Bram put it. My theories are based on the answer to the question, "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" Richard finally gave the answer, in the Latin language of the Others, which translates to "He who will save us all." Now depending on how that answer is interpretted, it can only be one of two people. Either Locke, who's lifeless body is currently lying on the beach by the statue, or it is Ben who is an admitted liar and is currently in the statue. My first inclination is to go with Ben who has lied so long but always for the good of the Island, or so he says. It is hard for me to say this, but since "dead is dead," the Locke that we know may be gone for good. I mean, of course we will still see him in the show (how could we not?) but it may be as this coniving "evil" Locke that just had Jacob killed.

It's certainly a lot to think about over the long hiatus. There were a couple of things I was disappointed about not seeing this episode. The first was Desmond. Like Ms. Hawking said earlier in the season, the Island isn't done with him yet so I was hoping for him in the finale. The other is the outrigger canoe pursuit that we saw when Locke et al were flashing through time earlier in the season. I was sure that we would see this last flash get resolved in the finale but I suppose we will have to hope for both in the final season of LOST. It's certainly going to be a long summer and fall!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Afternoon in Zwolle

Yesterday afternoon, Roxi and I made the short trip to Zwolle to finally pick up our residence cards. Roxi's has actually been available for about two months, but I only received my notice of issuance about a week ago. It came in the mail the day before Roxi left for her trip to Italy and she has been pretty busy with work since she returned. So yesterday was finally the first chance we had to make the trip to pick up our permits.

The train ride was only a little more than an hour and finding the immigration office was pretty easy. We were expecting a long wait but they called us in quickly and we were done within five minutes. We could have gone right back to Enschede, but decided to have a beer at an outdoor cafe and enjoy the warm sunny day. While we were there, a local guy asked us where we were from and told us that we should go to the older part of the city before we left for the day. With nothing really urgent to return to, we decided to take a walk to the north side of the train station and see the historic city.

Zwolle was indeed beautiful and very different from what we are accustomed to in Enschede. The city architecture is magnificent and much older than that of Enschede. We took a walk through the old city gate and then around the city center. What started as a somewhat annoying errand ended up being a very relaxing afternoon of souvenir shopping and sightseeing.



Our Lady Ascension Basilica

Our Lady Ascension Basilica

Our Lady Ascension Basilica

Grote Markt

Ornate portion of the Great Church of St. Michael

Thursday, May 07, 2009

"Follow the Leader"

So here we week away from the Season 5 finale of LOST. Where has the time gone? More importantly, where has the story gone?


I liked this episode okay considering that going into it I knew it would be "setting the table" for next week's finale. So what did we learn? John Locke is taking instructions from the Island and his ultimate mission, for now at least, is to kill Jacob. So much for the "help" Jacob asked for in "The Man Behind the Curtain." Or maybe this is exactly the help that Jacob needs. After all, it did appear as if he is being held prisoner in the cabin in the woods in a way.

When we first saw Richard, he was constructing a ship in a bottle. Why? Is it possible that he might have actually been on the Black Rock as some of us have speculated? It's probably just a red herring, but as Ben reminded us again, Richard has been around for a long time. And I wish we could get a better explanation of his role besides that he "is a kind of adviser." I have some thoughts about what that might mean, but why is that his role? It was very troubling to hear Richard's answer to Sun regarding the fate of Jin and company in 1977 as she was told that he witnessed their deaths. Was it from Jughead? Will it still be that way? Will whatever happened, happen?

I liked seeing John Locke's story loop closed that began in "Because You Left." It was interesting to see that it was Locke ho did indeed tell Richard to tell a past version of himself that Locke must die to bring the Oceanic 5 back to the Island. But it was also very troubling to hear the doubts expressed by Richard and Ben concerning Locke's decision to take the Others to Jacob. I think Locke is right, I don't think Ben has ever seen Jacob. It was pretty clear in "The Man Behind the Curtain" that Ben was very upset to learn that Jacob had actually spoken to Locke. It will certainly be intriguing to finally see Jacob next week but I am afraid that we will be left with more questions that won't likely be resolved until the end of the final season.

Things are looking very iffy in 1977. As much as I have come to dislike Kate this season, I agree with her refusal to detonate Jughead. As usual Jack has slipped into his Mr. Fix-it mode and feels he must erase the three years since the crash. He may have been a great surgeon, but he never really was very good at actually fixing problems in his own life mostly due to his stubborness. I hope he and Sayid are not successful in the detonation of Jughead but if they are and the last three years are erased, things will hardly be fixed.

Speaking of Sayid, it was nice to see him again although I do wonder where he has been or if it is even important to the story. I had really almost forgotten about him. Another casualty of too-large scale of Season 5 I suppose. I have said before that I have not liked this season nearly as much as the last (although I will have my definitive impression after next week) and I think that the scope of the story has been the reason. I liked the idea of the split on- and off-Island storylines, but I felt that the execution has been less than stellar. This has resulted in a degradation in quality of the show because too much information has been shoehorned into the limited number of episodes. It is unfortuante and I hope that we see a contraction of the story next year rather than an expansion although I fear that the latter is much more likely.

Pierre Chang has accepted that Miles, Farady, etc. are from the future. I loved how he got Hurley to admit it by asking him when he was born, if he had fought in the Korean War and who the president was. That last question was his biggest fear when he first arrived in 1977. Great callback! So Chang is going to evacuate the women and children from the Island thus saving young Miles' and Charlotte's lives so that they might one day return to the Island. And with the evacuation, Juliet and Sawyer are being sent back to the mainland (1977 version) but who really thinks they are going to make it? And was it just me, or did anyone else think that when Sawyer offered Juliet to get in the sub first that he was going to make a run for it? And how sucky was it to drop Kate in between them just as they were having a tender moment. When LOST is over next year, I will not miss the Kate/Sawyer/Jack/Juliet drama one bit. And we saw that the sub actually works. I'm still not sure if I believe that it is the actual method used by the Dharma Initiative to reach the Island but it was interesting to actually see it operational.

So the pieces are in place for the finale. Who will live and who will die? Will Jack and Sayid be successful in erasing the last three years? Will Sawyer, Juliet and Kate get off the Island? Will Locke kill Jacob? Will Ben kill Locke? Will we learn what Ilana and Bram are up to on the small Island? I hope these and other questions will be answered before we go on our last hiatus before the final season of LOST.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Germany with Jack & Mary

Roxi and I had a fun but busy weekend of travel with my parents through a few German cities. We started our trip on Saturday afternoon with a four-hour train ride from Enschede to Cologne, Germany. It was a long but rather uneventful train ride except for a little trouble we had with the Deutsche Bahn ticket machine in Enschede. Immediately upon leaving the train station in Cologne, we were dazzled by the size of the cathedral in the adjacent square. It was impossible to capture in a single photo due to the sheer size and fact that it is so closely nestled amongst the other buildings in that part of the city. I've seen several of Europe's great cathedrals but I will never get tired of them as they are all unique and such an impressive testament to faith.

In typical fashion, Roxi and I studied a map in an attempt to find our nearby hotel and between the two of us, we were successful. We checked-in in advance of my parents and made ourselves comfortable at the bar where we asked the bartender for beer recommendations. We started with Dom Kolsch, a light and refreshing beer brewed on Cologne.

Next we moved on to the more internationally known Warsteiner.

As we began our third round, my dad showed up in the bar. My parents had just arrived in Cologne after spending the day taking a boat up the Rhine River from Mainz, Germany. My mom was resting in the room so my dad decided to join us in our beer tasting.

For our third beer, we tried Kostritzer, a very dark rich beer full of flavor.

From there, we moved on to another internationally known beer, Diebels. It was a lighter beer by comparison, but still a nice amber color and again very refreshing.

We finished our tour of beers by having a Erdinger wheat beer.

At that point, my mom joined us in the bar and we began to think about where we might have dinner. Being in Germany, we all wanted a nice dinner of traditional cuisine. The bartender recommended that we try Fruh near the cathedral. So we finished our beers and took the short walk back to the cathedral square.

The cathedral at night was just as beautiful as it was during the day. I tried for some night shots but they are always more tricky with a simple point and shoot camera.

We almost found the restaurant ourselves but needed a little direction from a local to get us there. We were seated immediately and given a round of Fruh beers. They were equally delicious to the other local beer we had tried earlier in the evening. We all put in our orders for food covering the spectrum of what is thought of as traditional German cuisine and when it arrived, none of us were disappointed.

Over dinner, Roxi and I listened as my parents told us some stories of their travels to Bruges, Paris, Mainz and the Rhine River cruise. It sounded like they had a fantastic time and I am glad that they were able to experience such a large portion of their trip without us giving our two cents on what they should and shouldn't do. After dinner, we were all pretty tired and so went back to the hotel to call it a night.

Yesterday morning, we had a fantastic breakfast buffet in the hotel (still nothing can compare with the breakfast in Sweden but definitely the second best we've had in Europe!). From there we took the short walk back to the train station to get our ticket for the day and get some more pictures of the cathedral.

In the past week of the trip, my dad had been doing some reading about Charlemagne and wanted to see Aachen if possible. Our plan for the day was to go to Geilenkirchen before returning to Enschede, but there just happened to be a train schedule that took us through Aachen. So we boarded the train and arrived in Aachen about twenty-five minutes later. There was a rather large police presence in the train station due to, from what we could tell, a soccer game that was happening later in the day. We looked at a map and decided the best place to see on this short visit was the city center. We took a taxi who dropped us off in front of the city hall on the site of Charlemagne's palace. We took the brief walking tour through the building admiring the view of Aachen Cathedral from one of the windows.

We didn't want to delay our trip to Geilenkirchen for too long, so we headed back to the station to catch our train. About forty minutes later we were in Geilenkirchen. The reason for our stop in this small, out of the way town is because my maternal grandparents and great uncles emigrated from the area in the late 1800s in order to avoid military conscription and religious persecution. They settled in south Louisiana around Roberts Cove about twenty miles from my hometown of Lafayette. My grandmother was born and raised in Louisiana in a fusion of German and Cajun culture that still exists today in the small town.

Most business were closed as it was Sunday, so we decided to again head to the city center to see what we could see. After taking some pictures of Saint Mary's Church, it began to rain so we sought shelter in the Jabusch Hotel & Restaurant. We sat down to another delicious German meal with some Jever, a very bitter beer. My mom told our waitress a little bit about her history and the waitress said that her father, the owner, came from an old family in Geilenkirchen and could probably tell her more when he had some free time. A little while later, Willi Jabusch came to our table and told us about the Geilenkirchen area. My mom and dad brought a book about Roberts Cove history complete with all of the family names that settled in the area. Willi reviewed the names and not only could he tell us exactly where my grandmother's family probably came from, he also pointed out that his family name was also on the list! We had a great conversation with him about his travels to the United States and my parents' travels in Europe.

All good things must come to an end and we had to head back to the station to catch our train in order to return to Enschede at a decent hour. We had a short ride to our first transfer station but when we were supposed to catch our next train, none showed up. Eventually we found out that our train had been canceled but the next train going the same way would be leaving in about thirty minutes. So what was supposed to be a short layover turned into a layover of a little more that an hour. Unbeknownst to us, in that time, my dad was starting to feel ill. A little less than two hours later at our next transfer station, he got sick. We all felt very badly for him especially since we had been hustling and bustling around all day. After a forty minute wait in on a cold platform, we got on our train bound for Enschede. My mom had also been feeling badly during lunch, so both she and my dad slept for most of the next hour on the train.

Finally we arrived back in Enschede just before 10:00 PM. We took a cab back to our apartment and put my parents to bed. They did so much traveling the last few days of their trip, it just took its toll on them. They slept in this morning and seem to be doing a lot better for it. This afternoon, we are all going to Amsterdam where Roxi will be flying to Rome this evening for work in Chieti for a few days and my parents will be heading back to the States on Tuesday. All in all it sounds like my parents have had a wonderful trip except for getting sick in the last couple of days. We loved getting to see them at the beginning and end of their trip and having such a great time seeing some new things with them.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Abraham Ledeboerpark

Roxi and I took advantage of the great weather yesterday afternoon with a bike ride through Abraham Ledeboerpark next to campus. The park consists of a mixture of wooded trails surrounding a central open field with a pond. While riding our bikes around the trails, we stumbled on to some large enclosed areas with deer, goats and sheep in them. We watched some people feed some very tame deer for a while before moving on and feeding some leaves to a couple of goats. It was a very pleasant afternoon and great to find a park so close to us!