Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Deathly Hallows Campaign

Remember that thing I write about sometimes called the Harry Potter Alliance?
Well, they've started a new campaign called the Deathly Hallows Campaign in which we are fighting 7 real world horcruxes over the span of 9 months.
The first horcrux? Starving Wages. Click on this link here to sign the petition to get Warner Bros. to change their policy so that ALL Harry Potter chocolate is Fair Trade chocolate (the people who worked to get it to you were given decent wages.)

I put quotes on here quite often. Half the posts are here just because I had a quote I wanted to share and figured I may as well talk about something else as well. This quote below is not from John Green, nor is it from Hank Green, nor did I find it in my quote of the day feed.
This quote is from Martin Luther King Jr., read by HPA head Andrew Slack on the Livestream kick-off show.

"It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality."

While you're signing that petition, go ahead and tell them you're a Ravenclaw. It takes less than a minute and will make a difference.
After all, this is the charity that sent 5 HUGE PLANES that were FULL of supplies to Haiti. We get stuff done, and the weapon we have is love (huzzah for cheesy catchphrases).


Saturday, October 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo Music

Once upon a time, I decided to write a novel in 30 days.

Once upon a now, I decided to do it again.

Once upon a really now, I was at a loss as to what to do in the 1.5 days remaining. So what did I do? I learned how to play "Four Seasons" from Avatar: The Last Airbender on my guitar. And cleaned the house. And discovered the remains of a box of stale Oreos in a drawer of my bedside table. Yum.

Last year, the music that got me through the month was Songs In the Key of Email by ALL CAPS. This year, the playlist has other things including Luke and Kristina (this was NOT intentional), plus Pandora. Some music is good for writing with. It makes good background music. Other music is not.

Albums For Writing:

  • Songs In the Key of Email
  • Bmin/E by ALL CAPS
  • Lowercase by ALL CAPS
  • Pretty In Pink (and Green) by The Parselmouths
  • Erase This by Luke Conard and Alan Lastufka
I've only recently bought songs off of Erase This, and it is awesome. I still haven't figured out exactly what the album's about (Alan said it tells a story), but it's so, so cool, and I know it'll work for noveling because I listen to it in English during journal time, and still get my entries written. However, I also like listening to it for the sake of listening as opposed to for the sake of noise in my ears with which for me to zone out of.


I've been writing my English entries in the back pages of my kindergarten journal. As the earliest date on one of the pages is 11/24/00 and there're several pages before that, I think it's safe to say that I have been writing in that journal for a whopping 10 years. Yes, it's taking me 10 years to finish a notebook containing things other than math notes. But I am going to finish those pages by the end of the semester. Yes I will.

Expect less posts in the coming month. I'll see you on the other side.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Labyrinth of Suffering

“The internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people—talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare … but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand—tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people.” - Maureen Johnson

A List of Things On My Mind Lately:

  • College. I've got a good bit of time left, but since a couple of the people on the Ellipsis staff are currently immersed in applications, plus those articles...
  • NaNoWriMo - how could I not be, with it taking up my entire life for the next 30 days as of Monday and my first, current, and only YouTube series based around it?
  • The "Labyrinth of Suffering" from Looking For Alaska
  • Halloween
Last night, there was an awesome thunderstorm here. There was a particularly huge thunderclap just before midnight, and at the exact moment it hit (I know this sounds melodramatic, but this really is how it happened), I had an epiphany about the Labyrinth. 
The question is the answer. Or, more accurately, the answer is the question. It goes along with the Allegory of the Cave, to some extent.
It's the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, after all: There is Suffering in the world.
So I'm aware that I'm in the Labyrinth of Suffering. How do I get out?
Step 1: Know that I'm there. Check.
Knowing precedes the search for the exit. If the question is the answer, searching for the exit causes the path to the exit appear.
However, I think what that path is varies from person to person. For Alaska, it was "Straight and Fast." The Colonel "chose the Labyrinth." While I like his answer, I'm more inclined to go with the final lines of Pudge's essay: "Thomas Edison's last words were 'It's very beautiful over there.' I don't know where there is, but I believe it's somewhere, and I hope it's beautiful."

So basically, I believe there's a way out of this Labyrinth of Suffering. I don't believe in heaven, as you all probably know, however, which means I think there's probably a way out within this life. So I've just got to find it. (No, I'm not becoming Buddhist. There are many things I like about Buddhism, but there are still those I don't. Plus my whole issue with teachings, as covered in a previous post/quote.)

It's odd how all of this is coming together at once: me reading Looking for Alaska for fun while also reading Siddhartha for school, while it being the time of year when I always feel more spiritual than the rest of the time.

Hopefully that made sense.

As for Halloween, I wish I had a party to go to, but most of my friends who might otherwise be having a party are in marching band and are therefore INCREDIBLY busy this weekend since it's our school's home competition, which is also pretty much the biggest event of the year for the town, with maybe the exception of the massive craft fair a month or so ago. So I'm going trick-or-treating with my dad and sisters as always, which was never depressing until now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Quad N: 3 Days Left

“And the moral of the story is that you don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.” - John Green in An Abundance of Katherines.

That quote has always "spoken" to me.

We're getting to the end of the Pre-NaNo Quad N videos. All that's left now is the one below and the one Sarah will do soon in the same style.

I finished Looking For Alaska today (for the second time). Those who say it's a lot like Paper Towns at the end are right, but I don't think that detracts from the quality in this case. It's like the alternate ending that came before it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Poetic Writing

(As he's looking around at nature) "Meaning and reality were not hidden somewhere behind these things. They were in them, in all of them. How deaf and stupid I have been, he thought, walking on quickly. When anyone reads anything which he wishes to study, he does not despise the letters and punctuation marks and call them illusion, chance, and worthless shells, but he reads them, he studies and loves them, letter by letter. But I, who wished to read the book of the world and the book of my own nature, did presume to despise the letters and signs." -  Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, page 40.

Not only are the stories contained within books beautiful, but the words and experience by which they are conveyed.

"So I lay there thinking that if people were rain, I was a drizzle and she was a hurricane."- Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

I read that today, and while I've read both the book and the quote (online) before, it struck me as particularly beautiful. This was at the beginning of math class, and I pulled out a bit of paper and started writing something of a blog post on it:

"Prose, good prose, aims to better accomplish what poetry sets out to do in ways that are more easily understood. It makes it more relatable and distracts the conscious mind with story while quietly engaging the subconscious with speculation and contemplation."

Now, I don't know whether or not I agree with that, even though I wrote it. It's true for John's books, certainly, but what about other things? Not as much, and prose comes with its own limitations and complications.
Yet isn't that why we read the books we read in English? For the emotion and deeper meaning through symbolism and allegory?

As I was reading the quoted passage of Siddhartha today, it suddenly came to mind that what I was reading was very similar in type to the things in Paper Towns (and the other three, but mostly that one). It was just worded in a different style. It's still a book about a teenager on a journey. Granted, Siddhartha was written awhile ago, but I think John's books do a better job of it, given that those characters and narrations styles are much more similar to us readers. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Requested Massive Follow-up

Some conclusions I've drawn from the articles, Kenny's comment, and my responses to said comment:

  • I am incredibly glad I didn't post the original rant. Blogging when angry is never a good thing.
  • Parenting is difficult. It takes lots of training to be a doctor, but anyone can be a parent, and there isn't any required training at all for that. There's books you can read, and classes to take, and your own parents and other people you know to learn from, but every kid is different and there's no way to prepare for that. I read some article in which the woman said "I am not a homemaker. I am not a housewife. I am a Mom," meaning that was her profession of choice. It's a job, and it's a job that needs to be done well, and while there are many very, very good parents in the world, it scares me that there are some not-so-great ones too.

Kenny's comment was a heck of a lot shorter than the 6 articles I wrote on originally, so I think I'll just go with direct quotes and responses.

"This is an interesting post linking to interesting articles, so I think I have quite a bit to say, sorry? First off, I am unsure that Nerdfighters provide the best examples of "typical" students."

I don't mind at all. And that's a good point. Unfortunately, I haven't anyone else to compare to, since all of my friends are either nerdfighters or would be if they knew about it or are a lot like nerdfighters even though they don't want to be one. I think I wrote something like "all the teenagers I know well enough to speak about in regards to this."

"One thing that multiple articles did was imply that students becoming more family dependent/oriented was a bad thing. I think this comes from our "frontier mentality" as a culture (I assume you are in the US, the articles were from the NYT at least)"

Yep. I hail from central NC, although I got the articles from "Old People Insulting Young People," not the NYT itself. There's a house in our neighborhood in which three generations live, and I know some cultures are very big on extended family sticking together, whereas the general outlook here seems to be more of "We raise you, and now you're grown, so go off and do your own thing and hopefully do well for yourself and we'll see you at Christmas." I don't know anyone with post-college kids very well, so I don't know if that's actually the case. I know my family finds regular communication and get-togethers fairly important (of course, all of Mom's immediate family lives nearby), and while my dad doesn't call his parents and siblings terribly often, they always talk for at least an hour when he does. If a family functions as a support group for "emerging adults," then I think that's a good thing. It's only when they start interfering with things (like you mentioned regarding move-in day later on in your comment) that it starts to be a problem. 

"In regards to my students, while some show a shocking sense of entitlement, and many have a serious disrespect for academics, almost all of them have been respectful people whom I have been privileged to teach."

Case point: Sometimes my dad's manager brings in donuts to share. One week, he didn't, and the team asked him why he didn't have donuts for them. He said "because people get a sense of entitlement really fast." The same goes for my computer programming class- our teacher offered to buy bagels (although we had to pay) twice out of the whole 7-8 weeks we've been in school, yet every week someone complains about not getting them.

"I found this Wednesday I was startled by the realization that I could buy a new computer without consulting my parents. And I haven't lived in their house for more than a couple weeks at a time in over 6 years. It seems reasonable that others more connected would have a harder time unlearning childhood programming."

That's interesting, and very true from what I can tell. It reminds me of some of Kristina Horner's blog posts when she was finishing up college. I think my most difficult bit of "programming" to unlearn will be to not relate anything interesting that happened during my day to my parents. All my life, they've expressed interest in "what (I) did at school today," and now it's at the point where they don't have to. Anything of note that I don't mind telling them, I do. They're interested, and (as you can tell, based on the number of posts on this blog), I like sharing.

"Regarding high school friends, not much personal experience there, didn't really have any to keep, but I did observe that people who left campus most or all weekends did not make as many ties in the campus community."

*struggles to phrase agreement without sounding sarcastic* This year's the first year since we met that my best friend and I haven't seen each other almost every school day. She doesn't check her email much (of course, it's marching band season, so there's a reason for that), and can't talk on the phone much due to, well, marching band and homework. It's been strange, but it is true that due to not being in classes with her, I've talked to other people more. Normally, "outsiders" get ignored in the face of a friendship formed in the past.

"Well, there is my veritable manifesto on the subject. I'm a bit sick, so hopefully the ideas made it safely from my brain, through the tiny chicken eggs, and out into the Internets."

It made sense. Get better soon!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Minor News Both Good and Bad

“Hope gives us as a species and as individuals what we otherwise wouldn’t have — a chance.” - John Green

I've had this window open all day waiting for something worthy to post, because it won't save as a draft and I wanted the quote.

My song didn't make it on to Jingle Spells 4, which is disappointing but not surprising. As I said, it was a bit out of my range. However, everything but my singing was awesome, if I might say so myself. It'll be available for free download online before Christmas, and I'll give you the link ASAP.

I'd post a lyric-free version here, but they might have the rights to that as well as the with-lyrics version, so I'm going to take the safe route. At any rate, I expect the CD to be awesome.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that Mom took my query packets to the post office today. Most of the return times on the various agents' websites were between 4 and 8 weeks, so expect a major follow-up on this entire post around then (I expect that's when the songs will be posted as well).

A word of advice for anyone querying based on information from It's a great site, but some of the information is outdated/general. Always check the agency's actual site for the current submission policies, and read the specifics for your agent. Some like email, some don't. Some want different amounts of pages along with your query. Some want a SASE, and some just want you to include your email address. Which you should include anyway, by all of the stuff I've read.

Are Students Less Independent?

"I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn." - Albert Einstein


Go read this: 
...and then come back, okay? Thank you.

This article pisses me off. Take a look at those links on the left.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Journey

“I think it’s important to like stuff. I think we spend a lot of time thinking about the stuff we don’t like, man. Whether it’s, y’know, the world ending or inequality or ‘Sex and the City,’ we often just accept the things that we like and complain a lot about the things that we don’t like. But if we could, like, intensely dwell upon the really great things in life the way that we intensely dwell on the negative things in life, I think that would be fantastic.” - Hank Green

Here is the post on spiritual journeys I mentioned when we first started reading Siddhartha. Honestly, the conversations we've been having on it are much more interesting than the book itself, and without my own life to relate it to, it would be even less enjoyable to read. Not that it isn't a good book in and of itself.

Movies From Books

I'm watching John Green talk to his computer live. I love how intimate it is. It's not edited or anything. He's just reading questions off his screen from the chat and answering them, and we're sitting at our computers listening to him. We're 800-odd people hanging out together in the same digital room. I usually don't find out about these shows until after they're over. (Oh, he just said he's leaving soon. Ha.)

He talked about how, while the money would be nice, he doesn't really want movies made from his books. Right now, they're popular with us nerdfighters, plus some other people, plus the people those people have told, and it sort of trickles around. With a movie, it suddenly becomes the over-merchandised thing with an entire table to itself at B&N. The experience of reading the book becomes less personal, and because visual stimulus is so powerful, the memory of the movie completely takes over how the book would otherwise be perceived.
I never thought about it like that before. It makes me want there to never be a movie based on a book ever again. The Harry Potter movies definitely took something of the books away from me. I've lost my original images of all of the characters except for those never or rarely seen.

(Insert segue that I can't actually use or else it would give away something I'm about to say before I say it.)

In English today I had to take a state-mandated Practice Writing Assessment for the Real One we have to take in March. It was a "Definition Essay," (which I'll explain in a moment), and  the topic was "the meaning of overcoming adversity to teenagers."
In a Definition Essay, they give you a topic and some quotes to use. You're supposed to start out with a quote, state your definition of the topic, give a historical example  that backs it up, a literary example, and a personal example, and then conclude, or pick historical or literary, a personal, and then a counter arguments paragraph.
I did the latter format, and I wrote about things I love: Harry Potter and NaNoWriMo.
Somehow I always manage to work one of those in, or a John Green quote. I probably could have found one for this had I Internet access at the time.
I really hope I didn't have to define adversity, because what I actually defined was what the surmounting of it means to teens.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Day Full of Writing Club

Ezra, you'd better re-visit the comments of the Socratic Seminar post. Kenny's brought up some interesting stuff. I don't know if you subscribed to the comments on that one or not.

Today was the first meeting of the elementary school's writing club. I walked in with nothing more than a very vague outline from the presiding teacher regarding what she planned to do, and a few vague notes I'd written on what to say if I was required to say something about any given topic.
Fortunately, she came into the library a bit early and went over everything in greater detail. The club looks like it's going to be very group-centric, with lots of peer-revision and discussion like we have at ours. I was actually asked to  describe one of our typical meetings. I showed my copy of Thoughts on Life, and passed it around for the kids to look at. One of them started reading one of the stories (the only one in there I wrote in elementary school, oddly enough), and pointed out a typo. Oops.
It looks like I'm pretty much in charge of the kids interested in the YWP (of which there are about 15 or so), since I'm definitely more comfortable with fiction and have experience with NaNo in particular, and Ms. Cornick is focusing on the kids entering the nonfiction contest.
Apparently I made quite an impression on the kids with my "published" book. The nonfiction ones were asking her about it.
I also read aloud Plot Chickens, which was fun. 
The YWP has something called a "virtual classroom." Once Ms. Cornick figures out how to give me Educator Status as well, I can add students to my classroom, keep an eye on their stats, and send them NaNo Mail. Since we only meet every two weeks, this is very good. Each classroom comes equipped with a set of forums that only members can use.
I'm really excited. I hope the kids have the motivation for me to have a decent time interacting with them and helping them through their novels. Their homework was to start outlining. Our next meeting is November 3rd.

Speaking of writing clubs, tonight's meeting was awesome. We talked about The Hunger Games for a good twenty minutes before actually starting, and the stories and poems were fantastic. As in, more so than usual, I thought. It was interesting when we all started laughing at the most horrible, disturbing parts, though. Writers are strange.
We only stopped because an employee came in and told us there were impatient parents waiting outside (of which mine was not one. Dad likes sitting and reading for 1+ hours.)

I have a list of blog topics sitting next to my bed like the ones I had a lot of in August. Despite having stopped posting my English journals, I feel like I'm still posting an awful lot. Hopefully the quality is at least partially worth it. Of course, since you're all still subscribed, I assume you at least find it worthwhile to skim through my posts, which I don't mind in the slightest if you do.

Poetry And My Views On Organized Religion

If anyone wants a machine to write really great poetry, well, I can't help you there.

But if you want to write some pretty good poetry, I suggest going to Pandora Radio and putting on the "New Age Beats" station. "Beats" isn't really accurate, but the music is very...visual. I have almost a poem per song, and they're not (in my opinion) at all bad. In fact, I think they're pretty good.

Here's a quote from Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, which we're reading in English now. While it doesn't describe my personal views, it does describe my opinion of organized religion fairly well.

"'I think...that nobody finds salvation through teachings. To nobody...can you communicate in words and teachings what happened to you in the hour of your enlightenment...there is one thing...worthy instruction does not contain; it does not contain the secret of what (Buddha) himself experienced-- he alone among hundreds of thousands...I am going on my leave all doctrines and teachers and to reach my goal alone-- or die," (pg. 34).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Quad N: NaNo 2010

“Religion is not just a set of practices or a singular monolithic belief system. Religion is a response to revelation, and different people respond to revelation differently. We cannot continue to assume that each religion represents only one set of ideas.” - John Green

I uploaded tomorrow's episode of the Quad N early, since I'll probably be gone until almost 10 tomorrow night. Here it is:

A Link to a Post About Gay Rights

Read this post I am linking to, please. Thank you.

This isn't the first time I've linked to Maureen, nor will it be the last. I recommend that you read the satire list of "why gay marriage shouldn't be allowed" that someone posted in the comments. It's funny.

Since I'm writing a post anyway, I may as well tell you that transforming an envelope into a SASE feels like digging your own grave. My rejection letters will be addressed in my own handwriting. 

I may have convinced my other sister to do NaNoWriMo as well. She's afraid of failure, and afraid that what she writes will be bad. I told her I've spent the past year editing for a reason. Sarah's all set up on the YWP website, shooting for 25,000 words. She says she would go for 30,000, except she wants to make sure she'll win.
We found it amusing that the highest recommended goal for her age is 3,000 words for the entire month. She's done that much in a day.

While I'm only on page 12, The God Debates has been an excellent book so far. However, it's so densely academic that I've resorted to taking notes just so I remember what the chapter actually said. It's a good way to use up the blank pages at the backs of my notebooks from 3rd grade, though.

Also, I'm going to (hopefully) go see Scott Westerfeld on Friday, and there's a wizard rock concert tomorrow. Yay.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Word After Word After Word

"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear." - Joan Didion

That quote comes from the beginning of a book entitled Word After Word After Word by Particia MacLachlan. This quote comes from the book itself:

"'I, myself, write to change my life, to make it come out the way I want it to,' she said. 'But other people write for other reasons: to see more closely what it is they are thinking about, what they may be afraid of. Sometimes writers write to solve a problem, to answer their own question. All these reasons are good reasons. And that is the most important thing I'll ever tell you. Maybe it is the most important thing you'll ever hear. Ever.' 'Some writers write to earn money,' said Evie. 'They do,' said Ms. Mirabel. 'But that is only one reason to write. And usually not the most important.'"

This comes from the page before that:

(After a student has asked her whether or not she writes with an outline) "Ms. Mirabel laughed loudly...'Of course not,' she said. 'Outlines are silly. Once you write the outline, there's no reason to write the story. You write to find out what is going to happen!' Miss Cash frowned. This is not what she had taught us in creative writing class. 'Actually, I loathe outlines!' said Ms. Mirabel with great feeling. Miss Cash closed her eyes as if her head hurt."

That made me laugh. Up until high school, I also loathed pre-writing, as we called it. I wrote because I liked it. I had the story all in my head. It wasn't until I started writing longer things that I was serious about (beginning with Clockwork) that I started outlining, and that was only because I couldn't wait for NaNoWriMo to start. This year, I've only been outlining Ishaera because I found a cool spreadsheet to help me do it, and it's a re-write in which a lot of things have changed (mainly names).

I spent the morning recording and mixing a song for The Leaky Cauldron's Jingle Spells 4. Up until this year, the CD was invitation-only, but this year they're having a contest. If I'm one of the winners, my song will be on the CD. If I don't win, it becomes available online for free. All money from the CD is donated to charity. My song is a filk (same music, different words) of "I Wonder As I Wander." My singing isn't the greatest (it was either slightly too high or slightly too low for me to sing comfortably, depending on which octave I tried), but I think it sounds pretty cool anyway.

The afternoon was devoted to printing, signing, stamping, and addressing queries and envelopes. There's five or six ready to go to the post office sitting on the floor of our study. Two of them have the first 50 pages of Clockwork, and the rest have the first three. The comments on the Ask Daphne post were incredibly helpful. Depending on when Mom gets them mailed, I expect responses to start coming in in late November or early December, and don't think I won't tell you the moment I hear anything.

An Explanation of The Socratic Seminar

I don't know why I assumed all of you would know what I was talking about, or maybe I thought I'd explained it to a greater degree than I actually did.

First off, to answer Kenny's question, I go to a public school, so none of my classes are online.

The day before a seminar (or earlier), we're given Pre-Seminar questions to answer. My longest one was 10 pages of tiny margins and text crammed into every available space via tables on Romeo and Juliet. The Lord of the Flies one wasn't as intense, but the answers must be detailed and full of support.
In our seminars, the desks are arranged in two circles- the Inner Circle and the Outer Circle. The teacher divides the class into two groups, usually hand-picked for maximum effect. The people on the Inner Circle are the only people allowed to talk. The teacher will pose a question drawn from the Pre-Seminar, and the students take it from there. We're graded on whether or not we speak the required 3 times, how insightful we are, and whether or not we support our opinions using quotes from the book. Meanwhile, the Outer Circle folks are listening and filling out a worksheet based on what is being discussed.
In my current English class, but not in the one I was in last year, there is a Hot Seat on the Inner Circle. In this case, it was the remains of a wheely chair- a Wheely Stool. Anyone from the Outer Circle is allowed to sit on this stool, share one comment, and then they must leave.
Halfway through, the Circles swap, the teacher poses another question geared toward a different aspect of the Pre-Seminar (which is annoying for those on the Outer Circle who wanted to talk about that), and the rest of the class period is spent in discussion. (Except for when there's a line for the Hot Seat and the Inner Circle people don't want to say much anyway.)

Examples from this past Pre-Seminar (some spoilers, if you care):

  • "What is the most important symbol in the entire book? What does Simon's bower represent? Provide a list of all of the beasts within the novel. Are the beast, the Lord of the Flies, and the parachutist connected?"
  • "Many of the characters are allegories for greater concepts. Explore some examples. (Research the origins of names, famous people with similar names, etc.)
  • "Think of what the author might be trying to tell us about human nature and society. Is the island a microcosm of the world at large? Consider both the physical aspects of the island itself and the mental/emotional aspects of its young inhabitants. Was the author successful at this? Is it complete or lacking in certain important characteristics? Trace one theme throughout the novel and discuss what the author is attempting to tell the reader."
  • "If the boys had not been rescued, what would have been their fate? What kind of government did the boys adapt at the end of the novel? Is the author making a social critique of different government systems?"
  • "What if girls had been on the island? How would things have been different? Please look deeper than the obvious 'relationship' answer. What would have been different if only girls had crashed on the island?"
  • "Do you think the ending is a good ending? Why or why not? How would you change it?"

I hope that clears it up a bit. If you want my answers to any of those questions, say so in a comment and I'll post them as soon as I get my pre-seminar back.

"Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why." - Bernard Baruch

There's a quote in honor of Socrates, for whom our types of seminars are named. It was he who said "The unexamined life is not worth living," and while I think that's a bit harsh, I mostly agree.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Quad N: My Deeply Fascinating History

The comments on my query are slowly trickling in.

Here's the latest installment in the Epic Saga of the Quad N:

Sorry for talking a bit fast. The first take was almost 10 minutes long, so I had to cut out a lot of stuff that was even less interesting than what I ended up including. Enjoy or ignore at your discretion.

The complete synopsis of Ishaera can now be found on my NaNoWriMo profile. Add me as a buddy if you haven't already, and leave your username in a comment so I can add you (it's not reciprocal like Facebook, for some reason).

Book updates: I read Cloaked In Red, which was brilliant in multiple senses. I especially liked "Deems the Woodgatherer" and "Little Red Riding Hood's Little Red Riding Hood" (the one with the smart cloak).
We're reading Siddhartha in English, which has provoked some interesting thoughts that deserve a post of their own.
Finally, my dad's birthday present for me came, which is a book entitled The God Debates by someone he went to high school with. It's a collection of all of the already-discussed reasons why a higher power may or may not exist, intended to stop ignorant people from repeating stuff that's already been presented. I've only read the preface so far, but I like that it aims to encompass more than the Judeo-Christian God, using "God" when referring to that and "god" when referring to the generic concept of a higher power(s).

My Query

I'm pretty sure I've posted my query letter on here for suggestions before, but Daphne Unfeasible of recently critiqued it, so this time I'm including her comments as well. Tell me what you think!

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,
Nearly every civilization has a coming of age rite. In the 51st century, 15 year-olds travel to the dark side of their tidal-locked planet to live without adult influence for a month.
When Terry Massey first arrives, she’s expecting to have a blast, make the friends she’s never had, and start a new life. Her first few hours are great, but then things start to take a turn for the worse. A gang of thugs is terrorizing a select few citizens for seemingly no reason at all, her new friend is furious with her, and she’s surrounded by robots who might be trying to take over the world. The only person she identifies with keeps melting away into the shadows, and by trying to find him, she only succeeds in further isolating herself from the rest of her peers within the paradise of an enormous library.
She discovers a hinting of a secret of epic proportions within that library, as well as Colin, the devilishly charming and clever boy who led her to the library in the first place. As events escalate with the unbelievably irrational behavior of the rest of their age-group— especially the thugs— Terry and Colin join forces with several tea-addicts who sound like computers and an infuriating old man with secrets of his own. Together they must discover the truth behind both the actions of their fellow citizens and the enormous conspiracy that’s been lurking in the Palace’s tower for hundreds of years. And with the thugs after them, they’d better do it fast.
THE CLOCKWORK EXPERIMENT is complete at about 83,000 words. I live in [town], North Carolina, and this is my first novel.
Thanks for your time and consideration.
Good opening paragraph, although I think, moving on, you can be a little more specific about where Terry arrives.
Things go pretty quickly bad, I see, within a “few hours.” And the mention of the library immediately brings to mind that fabulous Doctor Who two-parter, “The Silence in the Library.” That’s a lot to live up to, there. Your language moving into paragraph three is a little rough. Can you find a better way to say “a hinting of a secret of epic proportions”? The way it’s worded now, I’m thinking that Terry may also only discover a “hinting” of Colin — although I’m curious to know if he’s the person in the previous paragraph who “keeps melting away in to the shadows.”
As you add in more details, I get a little lost, but overall, it’s something I’d definitely look at the first few pages of.
Readers, what do you think? What advice do you have for O.W.?

This is good. I agree with everything she said, actually. I just haven't been sure what to do about it.

It brings up a question, though: Ms. Unfeasible, I sent you the first few pages. What was wrong with them?

This worries me, considering certain people speak very highly of the first few pages.

Also: HA! A DOCTOR WHO REFERENCE! That, combined with the (regrettably short) nap I had earlier, combined with that I got out of school an hour early, made my day, even though it's in a semi-negative context.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pirate/Ninja Day

Today I wanted our English journal to be about the psychological differences between pirates and ninjas, and those who dress up as them for Pirate/Ninja day, respectively. The journal was actually "Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Chuck Norris. Discuss."

One thing I learned by being a ninja today is that non-costumed people treat costumed people differently. Some people looked straight past me (I amused myself by thinking that of course it must have been because ninjas are invisible). Others treated me as more of an object than a person. Example: someone in the hallway saw me and remarked to her friend "That's the coolest ninja I've seen all day."

There are a number of things wrong with that statement, but also: thanks.

  1. I am not a "that." I am a "she" or at the very least a "they" if you're not sure of my gender. Not that I'm actually upset about it, but I figured I'd mention it.
  2. I was still in front of her. I have ears. Why not address the compliment to me?
  3. There isn't a three. I just said there were a number of things wrong.
Someone thought I was not dressed as a ninja, but a Muslim. Okay, maybe I looked like the Medjai guy from The Mummy, but he doesn't represent Muslims. He represents Egyptian Aragorn. 

So I was an Arabian Ninja Coolest Seen All Day. That's not bad.

My math teacher wore a black dress shirt with black dress pants and said "This is the closest to a ninja I'm ever getting." This is the man with pipe-cleaner ninjas hidden around his classroom planted by a student for his birthday.

My English teacher's shirt had a picture of Gandhi with an eye-patch that read "An eye for an eye makes the whole world pirates." She's also one of the five people who understood my Einstein shirt. Her dad (my Computer Programming teacher) is one of the others.

Also, if anyone happened to see a ninja tearing down the sidewalk today...that was me. I'd forgotten about Ellipsis and got all the way to Grandma's before remembering and then I ran back to school. Fun.

It occurred to me yesterday that when I have a vaguely interesting thought, my first instinct is to stick it on here. I really do still intend for this blog to have more of a theme than "Random Thoughts I Have." Maybe you'd like a Random Thoughts blog written by me, but I don't have one, nor do I plan to. I will try to restrain my random thoughts to my paper journal rather than this online one.
Maybe I just need someone to talk to about my random thoughts, and you guys are it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Am A Teenager

Today I received an email regarding my interview and what steps to take next.
Want to know what I said (not in a reply- I was speaking to my computer)?

"No. Not right now. I am a teenager, and I want to make my Robot Unicorn fly through magical stars with Rainbow Attacks on Facebook and compete with my friends. I want to watch TV on Hulu. I want to sneak the last piece of cake when nobody's looking. I have a limited amount of time supported by my parents, and I am going to have fun."

And I did. I'm now the Robot Unicorn champion once more, I'm caught up on House (but I didn't eat the cake). I enjoyed myself. I am happy.

Now I'm back to work, recording a song that I hope to get on Jingle Spells 4, The Leaky Cauldron's annual holiday charity album, filling out NaNoWriMo pre-interview questionaires, worrying about elementary school writing club next week...and I'm still happy.

But I'm going to go play disc golf with my dad later.

It's not that I'm feeling overwhelmed- far from it. It's just that while I'm more self-motivated than a lot of people my age, it's incredibly fun to ignore stuff I should be doing and do anything but, as long as I'm getting joy out of it. Playing Minesweeper just because I don't feel like doing anything else doesn't count. I have to be actively procrastinating.

How was the PSAT for any of you that took it today?

Oddly enough, I found it to be the most enjoyable standardized test I've ever taken, which is a weird thing to say, but it's true.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Real Einstein

Today was our seminar on Lord of the Flies. While I love seminars, it's annoying when I'm on the outer circle and can't say anything. There were certain topics I wanted to talk about that our circle never got to when we were on the inside. There was a "hot seat," but my entire circle used it too much and the hot seat went out of commission for awhile because the people who were supposed to be talking didn't have a chance to get a word in.
When they got to talking about how things would have been different if there were girls on the island and how when reading you forget that they're all under twelve, I wanted to abandon Lord of the Flies right then and there and move on to discussing Ender's Game. But only two people in that circle had read it (I asked), so that discussion went nowhere.
My other problem with seminars is that I think out my point, but then when I'm actually saying it I leave out important bits and it comes across entirely differently than I intended. This is why I loved the forum-based discussions we had on Blackboard last year. It's why I prefer blogging to vlogging.

Today's also "Einstein Day," but since hardly anyone knows much about what Einstein actually did, it turned into more of a "Nerd Day." I heard that they only called it "Einstein Day" because "Nerd Day" would have been offensive. I actually find "Einstein" more offensive, because everyone's representing false interpretations of him. Most people are wearing glasses with tape on them. I have a number of problems with this.
1. Einstein didn't wear glasses, except maybe for reading. I'm not sure.
2. Not all nerds wear glasses.
3. Those of us who do often get contacts.
4. People with glasses TAKE CARE OF THEM. We never allow them to get to the point where tape is needed.

Someone brought a toy lightsaber. Someone wore a shirt with Pi on it. These, while nice things to do, aren't related to Einstein.
Some people have shirts from a nearby planetarium with Einstein's head made out of stars with a quote from him. These are very cool. I wish I had one. Unfortunately, I don't, so I turned an old shirt of mine inside out and wrote on it "Space- it's just a matter of Time." That actually is related to Einstein's work.

Also, my Facebook status now reads "If only Einstein had lived another 20 years, he would  have discovered that the Unified Theory of Everything is quite simple: 42." Ha. Geek humor.

Monday, October 11, 2010

For The Love Of...

"Don’t make stuff to make money, because you will never make enough money.
Don’t make stuff because you want to be famous, because you will never feel famous enough.
Make gifts for people. And work hard on those gifts in hopes that those people will notice the gifts and will like the gifts. Maybe they will notice how hard you worked and maybe they won’t, trust me, I know it’s frustrating.
But ultimately, that doesn’t change anything, because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.” - John Green

And that there is my philosophy on writing, blogging, video-blogging, music, and pretty much every other creative escapade I endeavor to do.

"Most of the best reasons for loving places are people." - Hank Green

Insert some interesting philosophical stuff here for me, will you? I have a Lord of the Flies pre-seminar to write (it's 4 and a half pages so far and only halfway done), so I don't have time.

Good Lord, I just checked the stats and I got a whopping 51 views on the review of Lowecase. Thanks for the re-tweet, DFTBA Records! If any of you ALL CAPS fans stuck around for other posts, hi! That was unexpected. That post is now the second most-viewed, with Fear being the first.

Here's the second episode of the Quad N: Great (NaNo-Tastic!) Expectations