Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Abundance of Quotes Part 17

The majority of today's quotes stolen from Thief of Words' tumblr.

"All progress is experimental." - John Jay Chapman

"Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it." - P.J. O'Rourke

“The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. It’s people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages” - Banksy (his art is awesome. Go find one of his books.)

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” - Maya Angelou

“The beauty of truth: whether it is bad or good, it is liberating.” - Paul Coelho

“You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books! Best weapons in the world. This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!” - The Doctor

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” - Andrew Boy

As you read this, I am probably sitting in a car. Be glad you are not with me, because I have been in a car for a long time and have a long way yet to go.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In Which My Life Is Weird

“Socializing is as exhausting as giving blood. People assume we loners are misanthropes just ­sitting thinking, ‘Oh, people are such a bunch of assholes,’ but it’s really not like that. We just have a smaller tolerance for what it takes to be with others. It means having to perform. I get so tired of communicating.” - Anneli Rufus

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about how I was going to be a defacto only child for awhile and generally freaked out about loneliness. Now that I'm coming to the end of that period...I'm a bit shocked to find that other than that day, I haven't missed them, and I haven't been bored or lonely any more often than I would be anyway. I feel guilty about this.

Then again, maybe I'd feel differently if they hadn't been calling every single evening since they left. Maybe I would feel differently if I haven't known I'll be seeing them soon.

Don't get me wrong- it hasn't been all freedom and not arguing with my mom at all and getting my parents to do silly things with me and and playing whatever music I want as loud as I want and the joy of not having two people pointing out every single time I fail to do a chore or whatever. I'm just having trouble putting the missing things into words. It's subtle. It's weird. I think it'd be worse if it was during the school year when things are more regular.

So now I'll be going from two and a half weeks of being alone except for going to see Deathly Hallows Part 1 in an outdoor theater with friends or having a squirt gun fight that devolves into 7 people shouting "Exterminate!" at each other... to a week of hanging out in a house with relatives whom I love pouring out of the eaves and eating some of the best food ever cooked.

And a 13 hour drive...with just me in the backseat. (Cue the sound of angels singing.) Marathon of the Lord of the Rings special edition bonus features and Doctor Who Confidential? I think so. Finally.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I DO believe in wishes! I DO! I DO!

"Who but the mad would choose to keep on living?" - Libba Bray, Going Bovine

Last night, after watching several episodes of Important Things With Demetri Martin with my dad, I ended up checking Twitter and found the great news about NY. (I'm actually going to be in NY next week, which means I'll get to listen to half of my relatives-who-care be glad and the other half rant about how it's the downfall of American values or whatever.)

Smiling, I said to myself "This is why today is awesome" and turned to reach for my journal so that I could write it down. I keep the journal in the drawer directly beneath my clock, so I happened to see the time:


Laughing quietly to myself (which coincidentally is a Demetri Martin joke) at the coincidence, I made a wish: Let this happen in the rest of the 50 states as soon as possible, as well as the rest of the world. (Except in my haste to wish before the minute changed, I didn't phrase it nearly that well.)

Now while I don't really believe in wishing in the magical sense (yet I do it anyway), I do believe that if enough people want the same thing and that thing obeys the laws of time and space and physics and so on, they're going to make it happen.

I'm posting this with 11 minutes to spare (EST, that is). Wish with me?

Friday, June 24, 2011

What Happens When I'm Internet-Deprived

'If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us." - Hermann Hesse (There are certainly exceptions to this, but I don't think there are many.)

Every morning this week, I have been turning off the internet and writing (that is to say, editing). I'm so much more productive that way. If the internet's on, I'm going to be procrastinating. The funny thing is though,  I don't go looking for other distractions if its turned off. I just write.

I haven't really done much with this manuscript in about a year (oh god, it really has been that long) due to other projects and the totally misconceived notion that it was good enough to not mess with anymore, and I hadn't really done much serious writing since the end of January for other reasons.

Now that I'm getting back into both noveling in general and this project god, I love it. I've been having such an amazing time. I've been laughing at forgotten humor, giggling with maniacal glee at the villain, banging my head against the table when I come across something particularly awful before hitting backspace as fast as I can, and generally enjoying myself tremendously. I've cut almost 3,000 words' worth of verbose irrelevancy...

While I've definitely been improving some things, though, I've also been noticing weaknesses I hadn't seen before (and emailing two of my beta readers about them). It's coming together, and I'm blissfully (or perhaps painfully) aware of the stuff that needs work.
And having recovered from my recent rejection, I have a list of agents to whom I intend to send query packets within the month.

Last night my mom told me she was proud that I haven't given up hope yet. I told her it had very little to do with perseverance and a lot to do with stubbornness. I want this, and I'm not going to stop until I get it. 

My writing and my self-esteem are tied more closely than I want them to be- in more ways than one. However, the relationship between the two is reciprocal, which means they feed off each other. So I'm happy, and I'm happy that I'm happy, because that means I'm getting out of the literary rut I've been sitting around in (at least, that's what I'm telling myself).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Focusing On The Wrong Details

"Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood." - H. L. Mencken

Another fantastic video about (or rather not about) religion:

And here's the link for those who can't see embeds:

One thing being discussed in the comments of said video is that sometimes people ask about others' beliefs because they are genuinely curious. Often times that curiosity fits into one of the three reasons he outlined in the video, though. I think one of the few times someone can be curious just for the sake of curiosity regarding this would be if you already know someone pretty well, and want to see what kind of theology is involved with the worldview you already know they have.

It also reinforces my point in the Groups Are Memes post that while Hank says he's not an authority on these matters, a portion of his viewership thinks of him that way.

The core message of this video, at least how I'm interpreting it, is that it doesn't matter what you believe so much as how it affects you and your life. It really shouldn't matter what boxes people fall into, because each box is so big that it doesn't really tell you anything about them, and just encourages the use of stereotypes.

And then I find this article and am completely baffled. I honestly don't believe some of that stuff. And it makes me want to never ever move away from this city, because at least here people are tolerant enough that I wasn't even aware of this widespread hatred. And I don't even identify as atheist anymore. (Note: However, I do find the "Millions are good without God" billboards offensive...despite being one of said millions. Go figure.)


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"It's All Cool, Man."

“You have a wonderful personality. Develop it. Be yourself. Don’t imagine that your perfection lies in accumulating or possessing external things. Your perfection is inside of you. If only you could realise that, you would not want to be rich. Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real riches cannot. In the treasury-house of your soul there are infinitely precious things, that may not be taken from you.” - Oscar Wilde

For today's post I intended to quote a particular video and then talk about it. I then realized that I wanted to quote pretty much the entire video, so I shall just embed it for your convenience.

I love this video so much. It's basically saying "Some people are religious, and other people aren't, but who is and isn't doesn't matter because we're all trying to do the same thing: find or create meaning in our lives. The details of someone's beliefs don't matter so much as how their beliefs affect them."

I was having a discussion a few weeks ago with two of my friends, one of which is religious and the other of which is agnostic. The agnostic friend and I were trying to get the religious one to understand that people of other religions find as much truth in their beliefs as she does in hers. 

She insisted that her proof carried more weight than their proof because their beliefs were wrong and hers were right (and that we didn't get it because we just don't believe). We insisted that there's really no way of knowing (and that if we have to believe in order to see the proof as proof then it's not "proof" at all) so all types of belief are just as valid as all of the other ones. 
Notice that I say "types of belief" rather than "religions." There are plenty of theological details I don't find remotely plausible (which of course does not include Pastafarians, because I most definitely am held to the ground by one of His Great Noodly Tendrils rather than that ridiculous thing called gravity).

But there's the thing with absolute theological truth- there is a right and there is a wrong and it matters. With me, modes of belief are like Skittles. They're all the same thing: they just have different colors and flavors, and some flavors I like better than others, but that doesn't mean other people can't like the ones I don't.

Because I really don't think it matters whether there's a god or many gods or no gods at all. We're all here on the same planet trying to do the same stuff. And since I also believe that if there is a god he/she's not going to condemn me to an eternity of hellfire just for not being completely assured of his/her existence, I'm not worried about what may or may not come next. 
Figuring out life on Earth is plenty for me to handle.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Going Bovine, by Libba Bray

"The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” - Oscar Wilde

This week I've been listening to the audio book of Going Bovine, by Libba Bray, winner of the 2010 Printz award. It's about a guy named Cameron who has a weird temporal form of Mad Cow Disease trying to save the universe by closing a wormhole while fighting Dark Energy Fire Demons with the help of a dwarf, a punk rock angel, and a lawn gnome who is actually a Norse god. They encounter the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction And Snack 'n Bowl, burn down a pancake parlor, and back up a famous jazz musician while he squares off via trumpet against the Wizard of Reckoning and a black hole that sings B flat.
It's basically Percy Jackson combined with A Wrinkle In Time (and it's sequels) with a main character who's 17 instead of 12. Add sarcasm. Stir.

 If you're thinking that this book sounds totally awesome, you're right. If you're thinking that it sounds as bizarre as heck and you wonder why anyone would ever want to read it much less how it won the Printz're also right. This is a book that only certain people will enjoy. You'll either love it or you'll hate it. 

I belong to the group that loves it. It's incredibly hilarious, and its brand of random is a brand that makes sense to me. As if all of that stuff could actually happen (despite the obvious fact that it can't). It's exactly how my brain works: a weird mesh of theoretical physics and mythology.

Going Bovine takes all of my favorite things about the Time quintet and writes it for high-schoolers with original insanity and humor. And it makes you think, as one review I read said, "about pretty much everything." I have slightly less than a third of the book left to go, but I think this might be one of my favorites ever-- one that will stick with me for a long time, at any rate.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Groups Are Memes

"I think a lot of people misinterpret the 'nerdfighters' philosophy as 'we are people who wear glasses and are socially awkward and love math and harry potter and english literature.'
It sort of started out that way, but since then I think the major ideology of the community has become something more to the tune of 'we are people who value rationality and sensibility as opposed to vapidity and hostility, and who promote knowledge and the furthering of information as tool to combat both personal and global issues.'
I think a lot of people get stuck in the 'peeps and things on heads and in your pants and giraffes' layer of the community and are either put off by the barrage of memetic in-jokes or simply adopt that as their entire view of the community, which I think sort of takes away from the more universal, inclusive values that the nerdfighter philosophy is fundamentally based on." - John Green

He says that as if it's only non-nerdfighters who think those things. There are plenty of nerdfighters who have the "we people who are socially awkward and love math and Harry Potter and English literature" thing, and get absorbed by the memetic in-jokes and apparent norms.

This is interesting because it shows that even if the creator/defacto leader of a group views the group in a certain way, that doesn't mean the group itself views it in the same way. Even if the "official" ideology of a group says one thing, that doesn't mean the group behaves according to it. Even if you intend for something to go one way-- be it a group, a relationship, or a novel-- once you start it, it gets a life of its own. It's not yours anymore. It belongs to the people to which you gave it (and John Green knows this-- he's written me an email about it.)

In other words, groups are memes. And they have memes within themselves. (MEMECEPTION!) Oh look-- a 3rd level of meme.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Problem With Blogger

"The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive." - John Green, Looking For Alaska

I'm sitting here online minding my own business and discussing faerie clones with my best friend (long story), and I get an email. An email from Tumblr. Apparently a poem I wrote had been reblogged by the famous tumblr Eff Yeah Nerdfighters.

So that's exciting and all, but whatever. It's not that big of a deal. I don't even follow FYNF anymore. But then the emails keep coming. Other people do follow them, which means loads of people are reading it. 75 likes and/or reblogs in an hour.

I don't say that to brag, and I don't say that to say "Hey, look how cool I am." No, I say that because it illustrates my problem with Blogger.

A Blogspot blog is like a private residence waaaaay out in the country. No one knows you're there unless you invite them to come visit sometime. There's no "Stumble Upon"-esque system designed to help you discover new ones, or to help anyone else discover you. Maybe you'll get to the point where people say "Oh yeah, I heard there's a house over there."

Now a Tumblr blog is like a bed in a giant homeless shelter. You're there, and so is everyone else. The beds are close enough together that you don't have to move in order to talk to someone. It's incredibly easy to find new people, because you're surrounded by them on all sides.

I can write things on here that I probably wouldn't put on Tumblr, because I have the security of the lack of publicity. Any given post usually gets less than 20 views. I can say controversial things because there is a significant lack of trolls/people-who-like-to-argue-but-aren't-good-at-it-who-I-don't-want-to-deal-with.

But I read several Blogger blogs that I enjoy a lot, and think deserve more viewership than they get, and there's really no way to make that happen short of excessive self-promotion on their parts and obnoxious hawking by the rest of us.

I shouldn't have to double-blog the posts I think would be well-appreciated (like Mr. Paranormal Romance) just so they get the exposure needed to see if I'm right. Except that's exactly what I just did with said post. I don't intend to do it often, but the fact that it's something with enough benefits to consider is just sad.

The idea blogging platform would have a nice balance: not so open to the world as Tumblr, but easy to find new, good things-- like the "Related videos" sidebar on YouTube.

You know I love you, Google, but I would like to call for a Blogger reform.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Awesome Summer Job

"I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Who wouldn't want a summer job where your boss lets you ride (and pushes you!) on the flatbed cart on the way to pick up boxes from a distant room, or where you get to fly down a long, wide hallway on a wheely chair at high speeds? A summer job where your boss pays for your lunch and not only gives you free chocolate and caffeinated beverages, but goes out of her way to bring them to you? A summer job where you can come in on whichever days you feel like it and work for as many or few hours as you want?

Yes, I'm working for my mom. Just helping with inventory and organization and updating databases and stuff. (Or rather, listening to audio books and blogging on the job.) It's not official, because there's no space in the school's budget for me, so I'm earning minimum wage out of her own paycheck.

One of my projects is to go through all of these old science kits people ordered over 8 years ago and never used. I'm supposed to sort all of the stuff out, organize it, and then make lists to keep track of all of it. Today was just taking all of the supplies out of the boxes, spreading some of it around on the floor, and putting some of it in cabinets.

One of these kits is based around "Food Chemistry." So naturally, we found 8 year-old granola bars, marshmallows, and freeze-dried apples. At least that's better than the 30 year-old vegetables my aunt found in the back of my grandma's freezer a couple summers ago.

We've quit working on that for the day, but Mom still has another half hour to put in, so I'm here messing around on the few websites the school's SmartFilters allow me to access. (Which means I can't get on Facebook to respond to the messages my email tells me I have, and I can't get to a proxy server with which to bypass the Facebook filter because proxies come with their own metatags that the filter can detect. Grrr.)

It's funny-- she's always way nicer when I'm the only kid at home. She even agreed to play Diablo 2 with me. (It should be noted that my mom is actually pretty good at that sort of game, even though she doesn't play much. Apparently my parents played Age of Empires together before I was born, and she had a level 60+ gnome warrior in WoW back in 5th grade. Yeah, my mom is cool.) I can't imagine what it'll be like for my youngest sister once the other two of us are in college. Ha.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How Can I Miss You If You Don't Go Away?

"Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better." - Emile Coue

WARNING: This post contains sappiness and over-sentimentality. This is what comes from me realizing I can turn up my volume at midnight and not wake anybody up because there's nobody there.

Yesterday morning, both of my sisters left with my grandparents, who live within an hour's drive of Niagara Falls. I'll be joining them in two weeks, but for now, that means I'm living as an only child. Especially now that since my mom is working as the secretary at her school rather than in the library, she doesn't have the summer off.

While I enjoy the quiet and the lack of people trying to nail me for not doing my chores, I've also been a bit lonely-- the past two days, plus last week when they had school and I didn't. I've been keeping some sort of music playing as much as possible.

Really I'm fine and have been enjoying myself, but I have to do actual only children do it? I like being alone, but I don't like having to be alone. Siblinghood is a weird thing;  it's a relationship pretty much solely based on sharing, ironic as that may seem. There's tension and competition and just plain fighting, sure. But even if you aren't "close," there's still that rather unique bond.

My best friend is probably the person who knows me best. She's my first confidant, who I feel totally comfortable talking to. But my sisters live with me. We grew up together. We took baths together. We've violently slaughtered virtual demons together (well, I've done that with my best friend too, but...) 
We've seen each other at our worst (and have said some shockingly cruel things to each other), and we sometimes don't understand each other. We tear each other down and then we build each other up again. We've been together our entire lives, and it's hard for me to comprehend a life without that kind of relationship.

So a message to my sisters, since I'm going to send them the link to this post: Don't die. Stay far away for the duration of the next two weeks because I'm partying it up here at home and hacking your computers to read your email and stealing all of your money and stuff, but as much as it pains me to admit it, I want you both back here in July. Okay? You're stuck with me. (And yes, that's a World of Warcraft joke in the title-- blood elf female. And no, I didn't know that off the top of my head.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

5K. ($5000? Don't I Wish)

"When I'm really into a novel, I'm seeing the world differently during that time-- not just for an hour or so in the day when I get to read. I'm actually walking around in a bit of a haze, spellbound by the book and looking at everything through a different prism." - Colin Firth

I was born three weeks early, so I spent the first three weeks of my life sleeping pretty much 24/7. This made it difficult for my parents to feed me, so they resorted to lightly flicking my toes to wake me up, upon which I would glare at them and immediately fall back to sleep. Hopefully they managed to squirt a few drops of milk from the bottle into my mouth before that happened.

This morning, I was woken up by my dad flicking my toes to make me get up for the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure. (The irony lies in the fact that I still have yet to eat anything today.) My number was 23497, so there were at least that many people participating in the various events taking place this morning. The competitive people started at 7, and we ran in the Recreational 5K at 8:45. It was so much fun, and very inspiring to see so many people with "In Celebration Of" tags pinned to their backs. Sure, there were some "In Memory Of"'s too, but...

This race was shorter than the Krispey Kreme Challenge, had less people getting sick, and was in much better weather. (And there were sprinklers to run through!) For someone who claims to hate running (I don't-- I just hate the idea of running. Actual running with loads of people on all sides I enjoy), I had a great time.

I did many things with the intent of curing breast cancer today. I Got Out of Bed for the cure. I Rode A Bus for the cure. I Stood In The Middle of A Road For Half An Hour for the cure. I Listened To A Diana Wynne Jones Audio Book (Witch Week) while I was running for the cure.

And yes, I Raced for the cure. :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Epic Quest: The Musical

"The problem with quotes on the Internet is that you can never be certain whether they are authentic." - Abraham Lincoln

I am currently in the midst of a quest to expand my music library (it's going rather well, but if any of you want to leave a couple of your favorite bands/favorite songs by said bands in the comments, go right ahead.)

The problem hasn't really been that I only like YouTube-based music. It's been that the only music I've been exposed to up until recently has been YouTube-based and the pop on the radio, and that up until recently I hadn't bothered seeking out anything else.

I've found some stuff that I really like, but today I realized a big difference between YouTube music and "normal" music. In my interview with Alan Lastufka, I asked him what marketing techniques he/DFTBA Records used, and he said he didn't have to do any marketing outside of a weekly newsletter and Twitter because the musicians did all of that themselves through vlogs. 

And let me tell you, vlogging is an incredibly-effective marketing technique. Your viewers feel like they know you--like you're their friend--and so they don't mind giving you some of their money every now and then. You share part of your life with them in addition to just your music, but you end up with a much tighter fan-base.

"Normal" music doesn't have that same connection. That doesn't make YouTube music any better/worse, and I'm not saying that said musicians are vlogging solely for the manipulative effect on their viewers (they all started posting music just for fun, and started making money later on).

The "normal" musicians are just voices in my earbuds, rather than people living in my computer screen (who I sometimes get to meet in real life). And that's weird. (It's also weird that I find it so weird.)

(Yes. Rejoice, for I am emerging from my musical cocoon.)

Hmm...Someone should really write Epic Quest: The Musical. And no, Spamalot does not count. It's making fun of Arthurian themes. Now that I think about it...I want the Tough Guide To Fantasyland in musical form. Is that terribly geeky of me? (Yes. Yes it is. Very, very much so.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Shelves; Not THE Shelves

If your Internet House is situated anywhere near the sphere YA literature occupies on Twitter, you have probably seen this article published on the Wall Street Journal's website regarding the overwhelming darkness and depravity of the books written for today's teenagers.

Here are one, two, and three other blog posts written in response to it, all of which I recommend that you read. (If you can't be bothered to read all of them, go in the order that I've listed them.) The first is by Linda Holmes from NPR, and she links to the other two.

Maureen Johnson lead a Twitter-based campaign to object to the article, asking her followers to tweet with the hash tag #YAsaves what positive effects YA books have had on them. There were over 50,000 responses.

Yes, there are many dark YA books. Some of them I love to pieces. Others I have chosen to avoid. There are books that I have regretted reading. Some of these I re-read when I was older and loved (Looking For Alaska, and I expect Catcher In The Rye will be the same), and some of them I have simply tried to forget about.

Yes, there is some risk to picking up a book. I don't know which of those categories it will fall under (although I'm pretty good at guessing by now). Most protestors are saying "No! YA is amazing and I love it!" While I do think YA is amazing stuff (in general), and I do love it, I'm not going to pretend that there isn't anything "bad" about it.

But do I think that the books I read before I was ready, or even now wouldn't want to read, should be banned? No no no no no no no. Do I think that those books shouldn't even exist? No.

Just because a book isn't for me doesn't mean that it isn't for anyone. I Am J by Chris Beam, for instance, bothered me greatly when I read it a month or two ago. However, that didn't prevent me from recognizing the fact that others have, do, and will enjoy it. I don't want it off the shelves. I just want it off my shelves. And that's my personal choice.

The writer of the article says that banning books is just "guidance." It's what in parenting is called "taste." No. Guidance is saying "This is what I would recommend to you, and I would rather that you not read that." Banning is "Not only do I not want you to read this, but I'm not going to let you read it, and I'm not going to let anyone else read it, either." There is a huge difference.

In the same line as my last post, some teenagers need those books. Some teenagers are ready for some kinds of books at a given age, and others aren't. It depends on the person knowing what he or she is comfortable with. And yes, sometimes mistakes are made. 

Am I eternally scarred by my mistakes? No. Is my future, personality, and mental health totally screwed up because of them? No.

There is a big difference between a bad book and a book that I or anyone else does not want to read. Let people decide for themselves which books to read, and if you don't think your teenager is mature enough to do that for themselves, 1. You're probably wrong, and 2. Work with him or her, rather than for him or her. Because there is also a difference between what parents want their kids reading, and what they're ready to read.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Platform Fifteen And Three Quarters

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - Voltaire

In English last semester, we read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It's about a man's spiritual journey. He starts out as a Hindu Brahmin (priest caste), becomes an ascetic (self-deprivation for the sake of spiritual advancement), meets the Buddha, decides he admires the Buddha but needs to find his own teachings, becomes a greedy, worldly man, meets a hermit ferryman, and then he and the ferryman hang out and listen to the river talk to them and he finds peace. It's basically a coming-of-age novel in that he spends the entire time wandering around figuring out his identity and place in the just takes him most of his life to do it. I liked it. Most of my classmates didn't.

When we first started reading it, we had a journal assignment in the general ilk of "Is spirituality/life linear, or cyclical?" I interpreted the question as "Is there an end point, or do we keep moving forward forever?" and I'm a huge advocate for the cyclical/"we just keep going" side of things.

My dad told me a couple days ago that probably two thirds of the adult population are at the same maturity level they were at when they finished high school. Knowing how much I've grown as a person in the past six, three, or even one month(s), I can't imagine why anyone would ever want to stop. Why would someone ever think they're finished?

Individual lives might have definitive beginnings and endings, but why should Life In General? I figure if no one can ever be as wise or knowledgeable or successful or or kind or mature or happy or self-actualized or whatever as they'd like to be, we should keep trying. 

If we're to be successful in that, we're going to "need" different things at different times, in order to keep progressing. And those things will in themselves present new problems, which means we'll need new things. (God, that's a lot of new things. I hate new things. Grrr.)

Different religions have different worldviews, different perspectives, different teachings, and different people. Maybe it just comes from being of the opinion that we can never really know any ultimate metaphysical truth, but I am totally okay with religious beliefs morphing over time, or even just swapping religions entirely. How can I have beliefs without believing in absolute truth? "I don't know this, but this is what I think at the moment."

Whenever a little kid says "I'm six and one quarter," the adults in the room usually laugh. But having been a little kid, and being a teenager now, I can say with full confidence that those quarters matter. So much can be learned and said and done and experienced in three months. 

People mature at different rates, so the older you get, the less the actual numbers matter, but you keep going forward. Every year on my birthday, my dad says to me "Happy Day-Older-Than-You-Were-Yesterday." And while he's just doing it to be clever and to make me laugh, he has a point. Your birthday isn't some magical day when you were fifteen and now you're sixteen and that suddenly makes you so much older and more mature. It's the culmination of all 365 days before that.

So hi. I'm here catching the train on platform fifteen and three quarters. I intend to ride these trains for a long, long time, and I'm not just riding through time; I'm riding through life.

(And there is my super-dramatically-phrased Hey Look At Me I Think I'm Smart post of the day. Thank you.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011


"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must...undergo the fatigue of supporting it." - Thomas Paine

A family friend is loaning me a book entitled Enough: Why The World's Poorest Starve In An Age Of Plenty written by two Wall Street Journal(ists). When she gave me the book, said friend told me I would probably have to read it in stages, because it's just that depressing up until a bit more than halfway through when they start talking about current initiatives.

I haven't even made it to page one yet (there's a preface), and I'm already angry at the world. 

In the 70s and 80s, the Green Revolution did a lot of good for hunger in Asia, India, and Latin America. Things looked good in Ethiopia, too. Farmers brought in their biggest harvests in a long time. However, that didn't go so well for them when they took the crops to market; the huge surpluses caused an enormous drop in prices, so they didn't make much (if any) money. It might have been possible to pull themselves out of it next year, but the weather was horrible.

There's a specific man whose story is told in the preface. He sold his oxen (which pulled his plow), and then his cows, and then his goats, all to be able to buy food for his family. They ran out, and didn't have any crops to sell. That year, the man carried his five year-old son, who weighed only 25 pounds, to a humanitarian/starvation aid camp instead of carting his crops to the market. Basically, the problem was that money went into boosting the farmers, rather than into building an infrastructure that could sustain more prosperity. 14 million Ethiopians alone died from starvation in 2003.

And then there's some stupid rule that says if some of the African governments subsidize their farmers like we do in America, the U.S. and some European governments will stop loaning them money. And humanitarian aid has become an entire industry over here, so it becomes more about the people giving the money than the people getting the money. $500 million in American-grown grain was given to Ethiopians who needed it in 2003, but only $5 million went towards building aforementioned needed infrastructure.

There really is enough money in the world to feed everybody. I'm not exactly sure where all of that money is going (again, I've only read the preface so far), but I highly doubt all of it is needed wherever it currently is.

It's ridiculously inefficient to feed food (cows, for instance, eat insane amounts of corn), so even just cutting back on meat in general would free up a ton of resources, both food-wise and land-wise.

Yes, loads of projects are worthy endeavors, but...isn't starvation a more important thing to focus on? One of the "lesser" initiatives mentioned in the book is the space program. And as much as I really hate to admit isn't going anywhere (well, technically space itself is expanding-- not just the matter within it). We literally have the rest of the lifetime of the human race in which to explore it.

So now I'm mad. Partially because it seems like a fixable problem, partially because I don't know how easy that would actually be, partially because people (including me) are rather ignorant about the matter, and partially because I have very little idea as to how to help at this point. 

Off to FreeRice, then.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Epic Doodle Game

"Judge not thy woodwind sisters, for you all have the same Director." - Rules For Brass Players, Volume XXI

Let it be noted that band people are amazing. If there's one thing I am going to miss about the end of the school year, it will be hanging out with all of them (although I'll actually see several of them for various things).

I'm sure all of the cheap restaurants near school love exam week, because all of the underclassmen are buying their food too. (I've gone out both days so far, and my chem teacher is buying us pizza next week).

After said band exam this morning, seven or so of us were sitting around and decided to create an Epic Doodle together. (This entails everyone choosing three colored pencils and then passing around a piece of paper, taking turns drawing. It began with seven stick figures.)

This is what happened:

The TARDIS is obvious, of course, but there's also Pokemon and Portal references, a ferret that shoots lightning, a man who regenerated into the Hulk version of our director, the Doctor, and a radioactive teddy bear in a protective bubble. Among other things.

And no, I'm not exactly sure what "Angles rule" is supposed to mean, but there you have it. (We did two other pages, but this one is the best.)

Anyone want to make up a story as to what's happening (and why)?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

"In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris, and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together, they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes-fascinating, sometimes-exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen.
But Tris also has a secret: one she’s kept hidden from everyone, because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly-perfect society, she also learns that her secret might be what helps her save those she loves . . . or it might be what destroys her." - Shelfari's Summary

I agree that the summary makes Divergent sound like just another Hunger Games knock-off. A bunch of teenagers thrust into a highly-competitive situation, with the bottom scorers being eliminated? And ooh, romance. That's what I thought when I started reading it, too. But no. Not at all.

I realize that over the course of the year, I've said "Oh, I loved this book so much!" for every dystopian novel I've reviewed, other than Delirium. Divergent was way better than Matched, Delirium, and XVI. I'm choosing not to compare it to Wither (which I apparently didn't write a review for-- I loved it to pieces), since they're both amazing in different ways.

I have another post in the works about the world in greater detail, so I'll just say that it wasn't just an "Ooh, creative idea!" sort of dystopian world. This was a "Ooh, creative and engrossing and fascinating idea!" sort.

The love interest, despite sharing some physical traits with Mr. Paranormal Romance (blue eyes, dark hair, long-fingered hands-- and I got to the part about the hands a few days after I wrote the post), is not annoying. He's not Mr. Perfect, and he's not Mr. My Flaws Make Me Perfect. He really is, well, flawed. And it's that, ironically enough, that made him my favorite fictional love interest in a long while. If it weren't for the fact that I don't want to spoil his identity for you (who am I kidding- it's obvious from his first scene), I would refuse to call him The Love Interest, because while that's his role in the plot, he seems way more real and...complete... than just that.

To quote from another review of the book, "Tris never had some sudden, life-changing experience and then suddenly became sure that she was in the right place making the right choices. She had terrible doubts through to the end, and her success throughout the book was to keep ploughing on through her uncertainty." That's true, and I love it.

Reading Divergent, while completely enjoyable in and of itself, also made me realize some of the flaws in my own novel, and has inspired me to get started on another set of edits. (It may help that there are two short scenes in Divergent that are pretty much identical to two short scenes in mine, and Divergent did it better.) That, I think, is one of the marks of a great book, though: it makes you want to do great things yourself.