Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thoughts From Places

I don't believe I've mentioned on here that the vlogbrothers are doing a 100 video-long series entitled Thoughts From Places. It's a set of "visual essays," and they are amazing. There's only been about 5 of them so far. I will embed the most recent below for your enjoyment, and if you want to watch all of them, here is a link to a list of them.

I've been reading Orson Scott Card's Shadow of the Giant for the past week or so. It's the 4th "Bean book," and they're a parallel series to the Ender Quartet. All of them are some of my favorite books ever.
In Ender's Game (the first one), Ender's older siblings Peter and Valentine slowly begin to change the political tides via anonymous essays posted online. Peter was "Locke" and Valentine was "Demosthenes." They pretended to be arguing in a carefully calculated scheme that prevented a third world war.
Being someone who posts essays online, I would love to have that kind of influence. Unfortunately, I'm not as interested in nor knowledgeable about current events to do something like that. I just want my ideas out there. I was thinking about that a few days ago and it occurred to me "But I have a blog." 
The thing with blogs, though, is there's a lot more difficult to find. With YouTube, a quick search can lead you to all sorts of places. With blogs, it's usually from other people's blogs, or by word of mouth. It's a lot more difficult to gather readers like that. Not that I'm asking you to recruit people. It's just something I was thinking about.

My grandma had some surgery yesterday morning on her knee, and I went to go visit her in the afternoon (both Monday and today). It was the first time I'd been in a hospital since 11.5 years ago when my youngest sister was born.
The funny thing was, while said sister was constantly asking loads of questions about what different stuff was, it felt like I'd been in hospitals loads of times. Why?
Because I've read a lot of books and short stories with hospitals.
That particular hospital, as I said to my mom earlier today, "Looks exactly like the hospital in The Price by Alexandra Sokoloff." She was confused as to how I knew that, seeing as how it was a book and not a movie.

Sounds of Comfort

"The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." - William James

"There are too many people, and too few human beings." - Robert Zend

"The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook." - William James

Some day I will look at my feeds and there will be a quote from me sitting there. Probably not for another 50 years, but someday. 

Here's Monday's English journal. I wasn't terribly excited about the prompt, but I went with it anyway.

The prompt today is a poem by William Carlos Williams entitled "Dawn." (Who names their kid William Williams?) Our assignment is to describe our favorite sound with vivid imagery. The problem is that I have no idea what my favorite sound is. Fortunately, I haven't known what to write in previous journals and in the course of writing them figured out my answer to the question.
I think choosing the sound of someone's voice is a bit cheap. One person said their favorite sound was the sound made when someone dies in a video game. I don't think that's a sound to savor- I think it's a sound to have fun imitating.
I guess my favorite sound (see? It worked) is rain. Rain drumming on the ground, the roof, while I am inside, preferably reading. It's incredibly comforting. It has to be raining hard, though. No drizzling allowed. All the better if there's thunder.
But why are certain sounds comforting? When they're related to a family member or other loved one (like toast popping in the morning at my house, or the sound of NPR [also in the morning]), sure, that makes sense. But what about other things, like rain?

Monday, August 30, 2010

In Which I Make A Confession

I have something to confess to you. And you probably won't like it.

“Hank, before I move forward with this discussion, I should acknowledge that as a child I was an inveterate liar… As opposed to now, when I am a novelist.” - John Green

Yes, yes, you're all sick of John Green quotes.

But I think he has a point here. Novelists are liars.
Now, when I'm telling a flat-out lie, I usually don't do it very well, because it's usually very spur-of-the-moment and I don't have time to plan it out (which is why I like blogging- I get to take as much time as I want).

However, I will willingly admit that I bend the truth all the time. The thing is, I don't do it to hurt people or to get out of stuff. The only thing I lie about often is dialogue. I say things contrary to what really happened because the new version is better. It makes me and all of the other people sound less-awkward and more funny. I re-tell stories the way I would have written them if the scene was in a book or short story. I make them better. I'm editing real life, so to speak.
Which makes me wonder...how much that we hear from hearsay is completely true? Some people (okay, everyone) forgets the way things really were, and some people like me change a few words or add a sentence here and there to make the entire interchange sound better. Not better for me. I'm not the one telling all of the jokes I never actually told. I change a bit of everyone. I am changing their characters.

Yes, I am a liar. And yes, I play God with everyone. You are all my characters. And while I don't control you, I control how people from other spheres (remember those?) perceive you. And I'm sorry. But I honestly do it to make you seem more awesome.

However, I don't (always) do it intentionally. Have you ever had a dream, and then laid in bed thinking about it and imagining what would have happened next if you'd stayed asleep, or how it would have been different if you had consciously been in complete control? I do, and when I imagine for long enough, I lose track of what I really dreamed, and what I wished I'd dreamed. It happens with real things as well. Fantasy intermingles with reality.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this. So I'd wager that most of what you think happened wasn't quite as cool as it sounds, whether it's you who skewed it or someone else.

You are all my story. My dad and I joke that we mold reality by declaring things, except we kind of actually do. As far as the people from other spheres who don't directly know the people involved are concerned, what we say really did happen. And in their version of the universe, it's true.

We don't all live in the same universe. And we are all the gods who shape reality.

(Btw, I requested Cloaked in Red from the library. It says it's "on order." I assume you got an ARC in your book club?)

(Btw x2 I've started reading The Mists of Avalon. It's almost 900 pages. I've only read a few of them, but so far it's quite good.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Not Atheism-- Humanism

Something else from my English journal written earlier today, August 27th.

"The miracle is not to fly in the air or to walk on the water, but to walk on the Earth." - Chinese Proverb

I love this quote.

The Renaissance marked a surge in humanism-- focus was directed away from the Church and toward the overall improvement of humanity. This quote suggests the same course of action. However, it doesn't necessarily encourage atheism, as some would (and me as well, at first) interpret it. It merely says that what is happening here on Earth is far more important than what's going on Up Top, regardless of whether or not it exists.

After all, if a deity(s) does exist, he/she/it/them  doesn't appear to be doing much. If he/she/it/them is so wrapped up in his/her/its/their own business, we have every right to be wrapped up in our own. Humanity's business, that is- not our own personal beeswax.

So God has some super powers. Yeah? So what? What's going on down here is far more interesting, complex, and beautiful than any one being or groups of beings. According to this list of best things ever, Creation overtook God in the List of Best Things Ever.

So here's my take on it:
I don't think it matters if there is a God, because the part of the universe we can see and know about without faith is the important bit anyway. People are important. Improving ourselves and life as a whole is important. Creating things ourselves is important.
As my parents have often said, "The point of being a parent is to train your kids to be parents themselves." - not to   have people (the kids) worship you.

Ignorance Is Pain

I guess this is an "anti-English journal" post. I'm writing my essay here, then copying and pasting and printing and turning it in on Monday. I'm also waiting to write the outline until I've written the essay itself. I wrote something on here about the same topic awhile ago, but this is a bit different. I'm using different examples.
And since this is just my first draft, if any of you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

We've all heard people say that ignorance is bliss. Most of us don't give much thought to it and continue on with the conversation. I am not one of those people. I don't think it's something to shrug off. It's a dangerous thing to have in our minds-- doubly so when it's only there subconsciously.
When we say those words, "Ignorance is bliss," we're depriving ourselves and those around us of our potential. There is a poster at the elementary school where my mom works that proclaims "The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the smarter you grow. The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice when speaking your mind or making your choice." Ignorance isn't bliss. Knowledge is power, or at least potential power.
How many of us have found ourselves in a conversation regarding a subject matter we know nothing about? It's embarrassing, and we feel left out. That's not bliss. My neighbors recently had a baby, but he was six weeks early and had to stay in the hospital for a little while. They didn't know when he was going to be able to come home. That's not bliss. Not knowing whether or not the person you like likes you back isn't bliss either, nor is reaching the cliffhanger at the end of a book and not having the sequel waiting on your bedside table.
Maybe ignorance can be bliss for a little while. There was some family drama going on over the summer that my mom knew nothing about. The problem with ignorance is that it's so easily broken. Once you know something, it's beyond difficult to forget. However, if you don't know something, all it takes is one sentence and that glass is broken forever. Once my mom found out what was going on, it tore at her incessantly. That is a case in which ignorance was indeed better, except that once she knew, she could remedy it. Now everything is fine. The world has become a better place due to the breaking of ignorance.
Why is an open-minded education so important? It is part of the fight against ignorance. Without education, our world would be drastically different. We wouldn't have any modern technology. We would still be living in the Dark Ages, farming. Why are we farming? There isn't anything else we can do-- because we are ignorant.
Why do we fear death? It’s the Great Unknown. We are ignorant as to what it contains, therefore we are afraid. Why are we nervous on the first day of school? We are ignorant as to what it contains, and therefore we are afraid.
Ignorance is pain. You’re waiting for that phone call, or that email. You’re keeping silent because you have nothing to contribute.  You’re wishing your baby could come home but not knowing when that day will come. You’re continually wondering if life would have been better if you lived on the other side of the hill, but you don't know. Because you are ignorant. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"What Makes You...You?"

I'm writing this on the 27th, because as you read this I am probably reading Mockingjay. This post is scheduled to come out on Saturday. I hope it works.

The following is taken from my English journal. I will insert a break where the journal stops and I finish up my thoughts.
"What makes you...you?" I don't know. These questions are...difficult. What is it even asking? What/who influenced me to make me who I am today? What is unique about me? It's so vague. I am the outcome of my collective experiences, but that goes for everyone.
So what is unique about my collective experiences? Nothing. Everything I have done or has happened to me has definitely been done by someone, somewhere, before. What are unique are the combinations of events and aspects- the interactions and the reactions.
It's like a book, in that sense. Except for names and invented languages/dialects, all of the words in a book have been used before.

Post-Mockingjay (minor and vague spoilers)

I finished maybe 20 minutes ago.

And I think I'd like to say that I didn't like this book. 

It was well-written, and utterly absorbing, with good characters and a good plot and everything...yet I didn't like it. And I don't know why. I enjoyed reading it. In that sense, I like it. But I don't.

It made me feel like a cold and heartless person. I didn't cry at the parts I thought I should. I would have forgiven Gale. I've never liked Peeta terribly much. I don't dislike him, but I don't really like him either. The thing with the parachutes...

I felt distant from this book. Still do. Maybe it's because I had some vague ideas about what it would contain just by the end of Catching Fire and from Kristina's blog post and I subconsciously made sure not to get to into it just to save myself from the...pain? I wish I hadn't. Because I can never have the original experience ever again. I know what happens.

Maybe I don't like Katniss. But I'm not sure. Maybe I just disagree with some of her actions. I do identify with her a lot at some points.

I think the best word with which to describe my feelings right now would be "confused."

I feel like there is another dimension of depth to the world. The dimension of crisis. The dimension of pain and suffering. And in that dimension, I feel incredibly shallow. And that sentence is repulsive to me. I don't mean that I want to have experienced such horrible things. I don't know what I mean. And that's why I say "confused."

So there's my review of Mockingjay: It will leave you numb and confused about yourself. 5 stars.

There's an English journal post that I typed up yesterday being made available in around half an hour, and one tomorrow. After that, I intend to have one posted every other day. Non-English journal posts will go up whenever I have something to say. Like now.

I think maybe I need to read Part 3 of the book over again.

And that book has to be the most emotionally draining thing I've ever read.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Colorful English (haha)

So I was procrastinating from my homework and thinking about what to blog about today while checking my Google Reader, and I found this in the "Nerdfighter Secrets" feed.
Background: Esther Earl was a 16 year old girl with cancer who was rather important to the Nerdfighter community. I never watched her videos or anything, but a lot of people did. It struck me how nerdy it is that of all the things to say in a mourning secret, that person most wanted her to have read Mockingjay. That book must be good. I'm starting it either very late tonight (after Twelfth Night) or very early tomorrow morning.

But moving on. 

English. English. English. English. English. God, I love that class. As of right now, every single morning of the entire semester we will have a quote or some other topic on the board at the beginning of class. We are to journal about this quote for 5-7 minutes without stopping. 

This means I get to write blog posts in school EVERY DAY.

Sure, it's on paper instead of online, but I'm definitely going to be typing most of them up. On the first day I had some difficulty. Yesterday had a good topic. But today, I thought to myself "pretend you are blogging." And I did. And it turned out very well. 
These journals are completely private unless we choose to share them. The only grade is on completion. I will be sharing most of them with you.
And I don't even need to think about topics anymore. They are flowing straight into my arms and then the words come out. This is most excellent, although I'm worried I'll keep coming up with things to write about OUTSIDE of school and then your boxes will be overflowed with my thoughts every day. If that happens, I'm sorry.

I am going to type up the first of these immediately after posting this.

But here's an interesting thought a friend of mine and I were talking about today:

What if we can all agree on which color is, say, purple, but we actually perceive it differently? What if the thing I call purple is what you perceive as yellow? How could you possibly know? Obviously, stuff like "you know, purple! The color of grapes and plums!" wouldn't work, because they would have their own perception of plums.
And things like "bright" vs. "dark" and "warm colors" vs. "cool colors" wouldn't work either, because we're taught that certain things are warm colors and certain things are bright. I assume white/gray/black would be the same for everyone, though.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

To Forget or to Kill

Hi. I have a lot of quotes for you today. Some are funny and some are not. That's what comes from going to school. But first, let's have the ones from the notorious Google Reader.

“There’s no way not to lose fights. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t fights worth fighting. But, it does mean that thinking that you’ll only be happy when you win is the surest way of never being happy.” - Hank Green

"Everything good in life is either illegal, immoral, or fattening." -a poster someone gave my math teacher for laughs.

"If you don't have answers, you must have questions." -letter from my math teacher to students & parents

And then there is English...which I'm not going into in this post. For now, I'll just say that there are a lot of posts labeled "philosophy" in the near future...

Just to get this out of the way so you all know (because it came up at the meeting last night, for those not there): Yes, I used to be very into Twilight. I was just very quiet about it. Then I "recovered from Twilightus," as my dad would say.

Last night I asked the question "Which is worse: to have great parents whom you love very much and are loved by suddenly have no idea who you are, or to have so-so/on the bad side of okay parents who suddenly want you dead, or at least wish you didn't exist?
All of you chose the first one, if I remember correctly.
I agree.
On the way home, I asked my dad what he thought. He thought the first one was better. I asked him why, and he said "There comes a time in everyone's life, usually around your age, where you realize that your parents don't actually know you. I can tell you I love you hundreds of times a day, but you'll still wonder whether I would if I knew the real you."
Considering that the question spawned from a nightmare I had in which he a) had no idea who I was b) was married to some other woman who wasn't my mom and c) was bothered by my reaction to him not knowing me, I would say that this point has already arrived.
But I don't think it's a point. I think it's a wave (ha, sorry for the physics reference). That point in my relationship with him was subconscious and happened at a different time than, say, the conscious point with my grandma.
Ah, adolescence. How I both love and despise thee.
Speaking of which, when I was in maybe 3rd grade he said "Your teenage years will probably be both the best and worst years of your life." This is true so far.

My grandma also thought the first one was better when I asked her this afternoon. She said that with the first one there was always the chance of love, whereas with the second there wasn't much hope at all.

And last but not least, here is a spoiler-free commentary on Mockingjay. I still haven't started.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

To Be Their Doctor

I can pretty much guarantee that you won't be hearing from me on this blog tomorrow, even though we have a meeting.
School starts, for one thing, and then I'll be finishing Catching Fire as soon as possible and starting in on Mockingjay. No spoilers at the meeting, please.

But here's a quote for you to enjoy, taken from the website Nerdfighter Secrets.

"A lot of secrets involve people wishing The Doctor would come and take them away. But I want to be someone's Doctor. To be the one to change their life, to always be there for them when they have nothing, to know that I saved one person...and they saved me."

This site, by nature, is anonymous, so I don't know who to credit for that one.

I like this quote a lot. It shows a lot of "I am someone who can do stuff-- not someone who needs stuff done to them."
As Ezra said of the main character when I read the first few chapters of Clockwork at writing club, "It seems like she doesn't do things. Things happen to her."

I was struck by this observation at the time. Struck by how true it was. And from that point on I started to try to slowly change my language throughout the book to show her develop into more of a do-er. I hope it worked.

Also, my dad asked me yesterday if he could read Clockwork. Although he isn't part of the target audience, he is a very good writer (although he's barely written anything besides emails and computer/programming-related articles since college, as far as I know) and will appreciate it for what it is. I expect to get excellent feedback from him, as I do on all of the stories, essays, and song lyrics I show him. However, he doesn't get that email until we've finished reading The Hunger Games together, which won't be for awhile because Emily's borrowing my copy at the moment.

Monday, August 23, 2010


"Data is the new oil...(No)...Data is the new soil."

I'm watching a bunch of talks from http://www.ted.com

"My idea is that creativity is as important in education as literacy."

"Teacher: What are you drawing a picture of? Student: God. Teacher: But nobody knows what God looks like. Student: They will in a minute!"

"We are educating people out of their creative capacities."

"All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up."

This site is awesome.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Waiting For School (*cough* MOCKINGJAY *cough*)

“Hank, I know it doesn’t feel this way all the time but we get to choose what we care about and what we spend our resources on. We choose what, or ideally whom, to lust after. We choose what to watch, what to like, what to build, how to spend, the breaths that we’ve been allotted; and the fact that many of our choices are unconscious - get that handbag, get that Starbucks, look at that Snooki - does not make us in any way less responsible for those choices. I’m happiest when I’m part of a community that feels like it helps me choose more intelligently and with greater empathy.” - John Green

I really did intend to resist the urge to write a post today. After all, I have more posts than there are days in the month, and that's a bit too much.

Except then I found that quote, and something else happened. No, it wasn't anything spectacular. I know it sounds exciting when I put it like that.

Summer break is almost over, and, while I'm excited for school and to see all of the people I haven't hung out with all summer, I'm trying to find good ways to spend the last days of freedom I have.
This has included playing a decade-old game that I have played since it was out and love to pieces. And watching a rather large amount of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (we're mid-way into season 2- just met Spike and then Xander fell for a mummy).

It has also included going over to Barnes and Noble and buying a copy of The Hunger Games. I own Catching Fire already. I decided to re-read them both before I arrive at our meeting on Wednesday, because I will be buying Mockingjay then. Buying that book on the first day of school is not good (I might neglect my homework...), but I can't wait any longer than that. Well, I could, but I don't want to.
I read my dad chapter 1 and most of chapter 2 at the store/in the car, but now I think I'll have to take off on my own, because I know he won't want to read it every second that I do, plus I read faster in my head (who doesn't?).

Besides, with school and that book to read, maybe I won't blog so much and the calendar can have a chance to catch up with my post count.

Time to go eat some waffles. Do any of you ever have breakfast for dinner?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm In Love, And It Hurts

This is a song I wrote to mock a lot of other songs/artists.

I've got no talent- that's easy to see

I just have a knack for getting publicity
It started with a stroke of luck that got me on TV
And now the Trending Topics are all about me

I'm in love and it hurts
Boo hoo yay
And that is so insightful that you all should pay
Me lots of money
Although my music's not all that great
(Follow me on Twitter to see all the stuff I ate)

Parents say all my music sounds the same
And although that's true, you don't think it's lame
You buy it anyway because it's under my name
Diss me and the fans will soon have you maimed

I'm in love and it hurts
Boo hoo yay
And that is so insightful that you all should pay
Me lots of money
Although my music's not all that great
(Follow me on Twitter to see all the stuff I ate)

Every song
That I sing
Is so long
And says the same thing

I'm in love and it hurts
Boo hoo yay
And that is so insightful that you all should pay
Me lots of money
Although my music's not all that great
(Follow me on Twitter to see all the stuff I ate)

Wizard Rock and Windows vs. Mirrors

“Gentlemen, nerd girls are the world’s greatest underutilized romantic resource.” - John Green

Audrey and I (and Emily and I) often listen to wizard rock when we go on trips together, so Audrey's mom knows about it. On Thursday, I went out to lunch with them and another 3rd grade teacher (Audrey's mom teaches 3rd grade at the elementary school. That's how we met.), and the subject of wizard rock came up. 
My mom, when I told her about it afterwards, mentioned the possibility of telling students about wizard rock. I asked her is she would use it if I made her a playlist of age-appropriate Harry Potter songs for elementary school students. She said probably not, but to do it anyway.
That's what I'm doing now, but I've run into a problem; What kind of music do elementary school students like? Not genre of music, but content. Elementary schoolers don't date, but a lot of Hannah Montana and Taylor Swift's music is about love, and they're popular with elementary schoolers. So is it just that if the musician is popular then lots of them automatically love their music?
This is a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.

In Paper Towns (at least, I think it's Paper Towns), there's some mentions of Window People vs. Mirror People. People that show you things about the world vs. people that show you things about yourself.
Well, last night around 10:30, I was shutting down my laptop and was about to go to bed, when I looked out my window, and saw my reflection illuminated by the light from my computer screen. I was a window person, and a mirror person.
Which made me think about how maybe everyone is a window person except sometimes we block our own view of the window, forcing them to become a mirror.
Apparently more things are about ego than I thought.
I spend a lot more time looking out the window than into the mirror, as do, I'd wager, most/all of you. What does that say about us? That we know enough about ourselves that we can turn our attentions to the world? Or that we just think the outside world is far more interesting? Self-knowledge or self-deprecation? I lean towards the first one, but I also think this matter is very gray, and therefore both sides have merit. Thoughts?

Friday, August 20, 2010

He Might Have To Reconsider

Got another rejection letter today, this time from an entire agency as opposed to one agent. :(
And then my mom said "Maybe it's not the query letter. Maybe it's the story. Maybe it's just too much like other stuff."
This is not the kind of stuff I need to hear from my mother, and I told her as much. I said "That's the kind of stuff that torments me late at night. You do not need to say it."
She thinks she's being realistic and helpful, but really it just depresses me and makes me worry even more than normal about the quality of the book. She hasn't read any of it.
Trying to keep my hopes from getting too high is one thing. But crushing my dreams (yeah, I'm exaggerating) is quite another.
However, I can't actually take it personally or be upset at her, because she really is just trying to help me feel better and be supportive and stuff.
But honestly. If I'm worried about the quality of my query letter, you don't tell me my plot might suck in hopes of making me feel better. It's like stabbing someone to take their mind off the pain of their minor headache. Except I'm exaggerating again.

I also read the worst fan fic ever. It was sent to me by my friend with the note that people only read it simply because it's terrible.
And oh boy was it ever.
My list of specific things in the first 22 chapters (they're short, and I was sort of sucked into the bad-ness. I stopped after 22.) could go on for pages. 

And for the Doctor Who fans...
I put a comment on one of wizard rocker Alex Carpenter's YouTube videos telling him that it had occurred to me that I could see him and Captain Jack Harkness as a couple. Then I apologized because that was kind of a weird thing to say. His reply was this:

"I'm pretty straight, but for captain jack...i might have to reconsider...haha"

Haha indeed, Alex. (*cough* I KNEW IT *cough*)
I thought it was funny, anyways.


"Life is full of grief, to exactly the degree we allow ourselves to love other people." -Orson Scott Card, Shadow of the Giant.

"Nobody ever completely means what they say. Even when they think they're telling the truth, there's always something hidden behind their words." - the next page

I love the Ender/Bean books. They're well-written, thought-provoking, and fascinating.

Stuff That Occurs To Me While In The Elementary School

The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the smarter you grow. The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice when speaking your mind or making your choice." - A poster I'm looking at here in the library.

I like this quote a lot. It's basically what I tell people when they ask me how I know stuff. "I read a lot," as the Doctor put it.

I've decided not to make another blog. At least not yet. Sure, I'm trying to get a headstart on my writing career. And that's all well and good. I try not to blog about stupid things (try), and if I do, I try to do them in a civilized way.
But the important thing is this: I'm in high school. I don't need to worry about being professional until I depend on it. Right now, I depend on my parents' professionalism. So at the moment, it's not too big of a deal, except for my own self-image, I guess.

Last night we watched the Percy Jackson movie (very minor spoilers to follow). I would give it 3.5 stars (out of five, of course). It was a solid 3 up until the Percy/Luke battle, which bumped it up due to awesomeness.
And I loved the flying shoes (that wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that I have a pair just like them except minus the wings, would it?). Luke pulled the box off the shelf and my first thought was "Hey, that looks like a Converse box." and then it was a Converse box. I guess it does mention high-tops in the book, but I never made the connection.
They changed the plot, obviously, and I thought the storytelling was kind of rushed at the beginning, but I enjoyed it. Medusa's head with sunglasses made me laugh.

While I was going through class lists to find out how much stuff to put in each teacher's bin, I happened to look at the data (because I like stats and stuff). Next to each student's name was either "Hispanic" or "Not Hispanic." No mention of the student's race if "Not Hispanic." Why does this matter???

In one of the classrooms I was working in yesterday, there is a chart explaining the grading system they use here:
  • 1 = I don't get it. I need help. (Failing grade)
  • 2 = I almost get it. I need help. (Failing grade)
  • 3 = I get it.
  • 3* = I get it and can use it well.
  • 4 = I get it and can use it to figure out other things.
While I find it stupid to have more than one failing grade, this falls in line with an idea I had yesterday, that I'm sure has already been said by loads of other people:
Intelligence is the ability to recognize and apply patterns.
Case point: I arrived at that conclusion by recognizing and applying patterns. A fact which I find funny.

Also, that grading system is a bit vague. With percentages and corresponding letter grades, you're graded via a definitive measurement. With this system, the teacher just gives you a number. So the standards to achieve a 3 vs. 3*, or a 3* vs. a 4 probably vary from class to class, and from teacher to teacher. The only time these numbers are based on percentages that I am aware of is on the EOGs. The rest of the time, a student might be getting a 4 in one subject in their class but they would be getting a 3* in someone else's class. It's subjective and unfair, I think, even though I'm sure the teacher's try their best to be in-sync with each other and to grade on a rough scale.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A New Query, and A New Blog (?)

Being lonely can have funny effects on people.
Some people cry. Some people do the smart thing and find some friends to hang out with. Some people go out and do stupid stuff. Some people bury themselves in a book or a TV show they love. Some people do other stuff, and I'm including them just so certain people don't bother me about grouping them in with a category to which they don't belong.
But all of them have something in common: They're lonely. They want a sign of love and acceptance from someone outside of themselves.

So what did I do, when bereft of email replies? I sent out another query. Just one. And it made me feel better. I'm weird.

I also just checked the last rejection letter I received, and she was presented with both a synopsis and sample pages. The first two chapters are awesome. This bothers me. Oh well. Her loss, right?

This agency wants 
  • "brilliant, funny, original middle grade and young adult fiction, both literary and commercial
  • witty women’s fiction"
I think Clockwork fits into the first category, and I'm really not sure what the second one is. I'm a woman (well, female, anyway. It depends on your definition of woman), and the book is witty (at least, I think so), and I wrote it specifically for an audience consisting of Mes and Variations Thereof. I'm a girl who likes sci-fi. It is a sci-fi book for girls. 
So even, because they didn't specifically mention sci-fi, they are listed as a "Maybe" on my spreadsheet, I don't think this one's any more of a long shot than any of the other agencies I've written to.

It occurs to me that I write an awful lot of sentences beginning with "So," "And," and "But," considering I'm a writer who pays attention to grammar. This might be a problem- especially if certain people (*cough* agents *cough*) find their way here. Also, this blog is rather unprofessional considering that it was originally intended to be mostly-so. Perhaps I should create a new one for professional-y things. Change this one to "Elf Army Blogs" and make a new "Elf Army Writes." Thoughts?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Harry Potter

 "People who boast about their IQs are losers." - Stephen Hawking

Not the sort of quote you'd expect from someone like him.

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.

"Genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person." - the philosophy of Immanuel Kant

Yes, I Wikipedia-d "genuis."

I was going to end the post here, but I looked at by Google Reader (always a sign of trouble) and found this. So now I think I'll talk about it.

I am one of those people who say Harry Potter changed my life. But not in the "My parent/best friend/boyfriend/other family member's death changed my life" sort of way, and not in the "OMFG THESE BOOKS ARE THE BEST THINGS EVER I LOVE THEM SO MUCH" sort of way, although that last one isn't too much of an exaggeration of some points during elementary school.
Harry Potter changed my life in the "My life would honestly be radically different if not for Harry Potter" kind of way.
I will make a chart for you.
Harry Potter -> Pottercast -> Nerdfighteria -> Almost all of the music (other than wrock) I listen to right now -> almost all of the people I'm subscribed to on YouTube.
                       Pottercast -> wizard rock -> lots of evenings happily spent (as well as money happily spent)
                                          Nerdfighteria -> General Wisdom and Knowledge and Other Good Stuff Like That That I Would Not Otherwise Have -> The inspiration and motivation to write what and as much as I do.
                                         Nerdfighteria-> really good books
These things listed above, regardless of how sad it may be, make up almost all of my online life/IRL things caused by online life. And while I have quite a bit of non-online life, that stuff is still really important to me.

And now it occurs to me that Harry is probably the most influential male in my life other than my dad. I mean, look at the chart. That's pretty sad.
On a semi-related note, sometimes it scares me that I might grow out of this stuff. Some people do. I might. But I don't want to. I like it too much to not like it anymore, if that makes any sense.

Oh, and I got another rejection letter today. This one went something like "I'm sorry, but I feel that I am probably not the right agent for this book." My initial reaction was this: "PROBABLY? That's a MAYBE YOU ARE." Lesson: Sometimes being nice conveys the wrong message.

Elementary, My Dear Watson. Elementary.

Which doesn't have the slightest thing to do with this post, but I thought it was somewhat clever, because once again, I am at the elementary school. The teachers started work yesterday, and I've been helping them out in getting ready for the new year.
I was moving locator cards to different binders this morning (why they keep all of the old locator cards I don't understand- all of the parents have to fill out new ones anyway), and then I called Emily after lunch about writing club. Elementary school writing club, that is.
The teacher who was doing it last year isn't working here anymore, but we have loads of great ideas and want to manage it ourselves. We're thinking of having it on Fridays so we don't have to worry about getting our homework done, and because Emily doesn't have marching band practice on Fridays.
So I talked to one of the other teachers who helped out last year to see if she would be our adult supervision (since we aren't allowed to be alone with a bunch of kids). She thinks she'll be too busy with meetings and stuff, and since her department is math this year instead of writing, it's not even related. (Errant thought: ooh, it's raining. I love rain.)
She said maybe the Writing SIP (school improvement plan) committee would be interested, and (I think) she'll talk to them, so hopefully it will be a go.

Some of our plans for them, assuming we get to do it:
  • The YWP. Yes, I know, I'm insane trying to help 30-odd elementary schoolers through their versions of NaNoWriMo while simultaneouly trying to finish my own. But I think it'll be fun, and it won't be mandatory for them to do it. If they don't want to, they can just come to meetings and write other stuff as per usual.
  • Making books. Emily's step-mom knows how to actually make certain types of mini-books, so we might be able to get her to come in sometime and do a workshop sort of thing.
  • Poetry contests (a few kids did them last year)
  • Maybe the bare books that we did last year, but I don't know how to get them and that would involve collecting money from the kids, which is a thing I'd rather stay away from
  • Writing partners. In addition to the small groups we had last year (which I think is a good idea), we were thinking of maybe pairing up the kids with each other to write stories together. Kind of how Emily and I are working on the Peace/War poems together, but probably not of that ilk. My grandpa and I wrote a story together over email when I was in kindergarten and drew pictures for it in Paint. It'll probably be more like that. Some of them will be paired up with kids their own age, and some older kid/younger kid groups.
So that's what we've discussed so far. The next list is random brainstorming I'm doing on the spot that Emily and  I have yet to discuss. And I realize this bit sounds like one of those boring curriculum guides. But I'm surrounded by teachers, so their mental waves are probably rubbing off on me or something.
  • Emphasis on reading other books and applying them to the students' writing
  • Learning about quotation marks (which might not be appropriate for them. I don't know, because although I first learned about them in first grade in a small group with two other AG students, I'm sure most kids take longer.) I really enjoyed that, and it's good to know.
  • More usage of the small group model. I feel like we get a lot of good stuff done in our writing club, and even though we're a bit older, I think they can get some benefit from a similar sort of thing as well. So what if at the beginning of the meeting they get into their groups and read to each other and give feedback? Not for very long, of course, since there's other things to do. We only see each other once every fortnight, yet I think we know each other pretty well considering it's only that often. Therefore I'm inclined to think that sharing writing= bonding of some sort, or at least familiarity.
I guess what I'm wanting is for this year to be more writing-centric, specifically improving it (the students' writing). And maybe what I have in mind is a little too intense and serious for the average elementary schooler. But it's what I would want, were I one of them instead of a manager/leader person.
Last year was pretty lax, I guess. Not much work was done. Mostly the kids just talked to each other about random stuff (and who am I to judge-that's what we do, too!) but our meetings aren't about doing the writing- we do that on our own time. These meetings are, however, and I want stories/poems/whatever to come out of them.

I was just called over into the media office where my mom's working, and there has been an email from my couselor (for those of you who read my massive rant before I removed it due to the fact I had calmed down and didn't need people to hear my anger anymore). Child Development has been removed from my schedule and Computer Programming has been inserted. Computer Apps (which is second semester) can be discussed in October. Apparently I am "very fortunate" that this change in schedule could be done. Ms. O'Riordan, in the words of those aliens from Toy Story, "You have saved my life (not really)- I am eternally grateful."
So there's some massive amounts of happiness.
And at the moment, my second semester seems pretty easy. I mean, sure, I have to start learning Latin, but I'll just park my TARDIS below the classroom and it can translate for me. So no sweat there.