Monday, December 31, 2012

Books I Read in 2012

  • I don't rate books in these posts by quality, really, but just as me recommending things to people, so keep that in mind.

  • **  = I would hand this book to you
  • *   = I would not tell you to put this book down
  •     = Don't bother

  •    172 Hours on the Moon
  •  **A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby
  •  **A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness
  •    All The King's Men
  •  **All The Right Stuff, by Walter Dean Meyers
  •   *Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  •  **As You Like It, by William Shakespeare
  •   *Assassin King, The (I loved the first 3 books in this series a lot, this one less so)
  •    Bewitching
  •  **Birth Order Book, The, by Kevin Leman (NF)
  •   *Book of Blood and Shadow, The
  •   *Children and the Wolves, The (This is not a pleasant book to read by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn't mean it's bad)
  •  **Chopsticks,  by Jessica Anthony
  •  **Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
  •  **Deadly Pink, by Viviane Vande Velde
  •   *Dreamsleeves
  •   *Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To-Do List
  •   *Fault in Our Stars, The
  •   *Glimmer
  • ***God is Not One, by Stephen Prothero (NF)
  •  **Great Gatsby, The, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  •  **Hacking Harvard, by Robin Wasserman
  •   *Keeping The Castle
  • ***Letter Q, The, edited by Sarah Moon (NF)
  •    Lexapros and Cons
  • ***Lies of Locke Lamora, The, by Scott Lynch
  •  **List, The, by Siobhan Vivian
  •  **Marly's Ghost, by David Levithan
  •  **Miseducation of Cameron Post, The, by Emily M. Danforth
  •  **My Name is Mina, by David Almond
  •  **Nevermore, a novel by my boyfriend which I love a lot even though he hates it
  •   *Of Mice and Men
  •   *Old Man and the Sea, The
  •  **Pirate Cinema, by Cory Doctorow
  •    Pure
  • ***Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
  •  **Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare
  •  **SchoolGirls, by Peggy Orenstein (NF)
  •  **Universe in a Single Atom, The, by The Dalai Lama (NF)
  •   *Unwind
  •   *What Boys Really Want
  •  **Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick
  •   *Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers


If you're at all interested in religion, read this. A lot of books now try to emphasize the similarities between religions in order to try and create harmony between them--the "different paths up the same mountain" approach. This book looks at religions as completely separate mountains, with totally different goals--of course Christianity is the only pathway to salvation, because other religions don't care about salvation. I love it a lot.


This is a book of letters by LGBT authors to their younger selves. And it is amazing whether you're LGBT or not. I haven't cried this much while reading a book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and this was for much more meaningful reasons than the death of a fictional redhead. IT'S JUST SO FRIGGING HOPEFUL.


From Amazon: "In this stunning debut, author Scott Lynch delivers the wonderfully thrilling tale of an audacious criminal and his band of confidence tricksters. Set in a fantastic city pulsing with the lives of decadent nobles and daring thieves, here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part Robin Hood, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and entirely enthralling.…

An orphan’s life is harsh–and often short–in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains–a man who is neither blind nor a priest. A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans–a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting."


Basically it just fits the criteria of "I will pull this off the shelf and follow you around, jabbering incessantly, until you agree to read it." The Gentlemen Bastards are amazing.


In which you get to live out all of your nerdy pop culture fantasies while accompanying Wade on his quest to win $200 billion through the world's biggest and greatest MMORPG ever. And when I say "all of your nerdy pop culture fantasies," I really do mean basically all of them.
After finishing this book I went home and spent a full hour relating the entire plot to my dad I was just that excited.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

In Which I Write A Post

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other." - a five year old named Karl

God, I haven't posted in months. Sorry about that. A combination of school, Tumblr, and life got in the way.

Things going on with me:
  • Full schedule of AP classes
  • Applied to college
  • Got accepted/am officially going to UNCG
  • Working on a production of As You Like It
  • Turned seventeen
  • Found myself the most excellent of boyfriends
  • Am generally happy
So yay.

Sixteen was pretty great, and so far seventeen is better.

Unfortunately, I'm kind of fresh out of the type of stuff that used to go on this blog. (I tend to avoid looking over the archives, but from what I remember I think that's probably kind of a good thing.) I have one post idea right now, there will undoubtedly be some NaNoWriMo things going on over here, and of course there will be my usual "oh hey the year is over let me process things and write about my life" stuff come December/January, but for the most part you will--officially, this time--be seeing a lot less of me.

Part of this is due to the fact that my whole focus on getting published has shifted dramatically to just writing things I feel like writing and sharing them with my friends, so there really isn't any big exciting news going on. Although I did do another workshop type thing about NaNoWriMo at a library.

You guys are just like my blogging family, and I've left for blogging college (in the form of Tumblr--if anyone cares enough to come hang out over there leave a comment and I'll give you my url) or something--I'll still come back to visit. :)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thoughts on Neil Armstrong

"Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance." - Will Durant

Alternate Title: In Which You Realize Just How Massively Nerdy My Childhood Was

I do not remember a time before I knew Neil Armstrong's name. My dad's first memory is watching the moon landing with his siblings, and many of my early ones are him teaching me things about outer space--important events, the order of the planets, classifications of stars, etc.

Some kids idolize sports stars (my nine year old neighbor loves Tom Brady), some historical figures, and some actors. For a long time, however, the name that was always spoken with a whisper of awe was that of an astronaut. An example of someone who did something great/brave/courageous? Neil Armstrong. The answer in our own personal variation of 20 Questions? Neil Armstrong. Occasionally, even bedtime stories were replaced by Neil Armstrong (instead of the usual fare of Doctor Who/Lord of the Rings/let's-teach-the-girls-about-natural-selection-via-dragons-and-bunny-rabbits. Yeah, I had an interesting childhood).

I realized today, though, that I never actually knew all that much about the man himself. And he knew that would happen--that all people would ever remember would be his one giant leap for mankind--and I'm sure he was, for the most part, fine with it.

I mean, I'd be okay with it if all I was known for was doing something that freaking cool.

But I feel a little bit guilty, and then I feel even more guilty for not caring at all up until this point--what is it about the death of a complete stranger that makes us suddenly care about all of the little details you never bothered to know beforehand?

Even though I haven't ended up wanting to work for NASA or anything (although it's been my dream more than once over the years), the man has had a very subtle but very profound impact on my life. Where would my dad be, had he not been so inspired by a fuzzy image on his black and white TV in the tiny little town of Tonowanda, NY? Would he have wanted to be an engineer? Would I have even been born? Would he have ever bothered teaching me all of those little facts about space before I even hit kindergarten? I don't know.

It's so weird, how random people can have the biggest effects on your life without them ever knowing.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who went on to work in aeronautics because of Neil Armstrong. I am not one of those people, nor do I expect I will be, but that doesn't mean his existence and his life hasn't shaped my life, too.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

What I've Been Doing With My Time

"Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world." - Arthur Schopenhauer

Back in May, I was asked to be on the board for the independent theatre company two of my friends were starting. The first show would be Romeo and Juliet, and they wanted me to stage manage. I said yes. There was a little bit of a rocky start, but we got things rolling and everything was fine.

Back in July, I was asked to take up a part in Romeo and Juliet. Someone had dropped out, and they needed me. I said yes. There was that day it was pouring down rain and the only cast member present, the director, and I paced around on top of tables shouting monologues at each other. There was that week when I threw up on two days, and felt sick for all five.

There was that week when I was out of town and the rest of the cast had the police called on them due to a prop gun someone thought was real.
There was that night when I was rehearsing in full costume in front of my house very late in the evening and had the police called on me.

There was that week of panic when we unexpectedly didn't know if we even had a performance space.

There was that week when everything came together and we put on a freaking fantastic show.

And now the best three months of my life so far are over--I start school in a week, and I won't get to hang out in 100+ degree heat for 3-4 hours every day anymore (tragic, isn't it?). As our director said right before I walked on stage, tonight was the last night we'll ever do Romeo and Juliet together. I'm going to miss it.

And then, after a couple weeks' break, we'll be throwing ourselves right back into the fray of our next production, and I'll start wondering why I thought it would be a good idea to pile on yet another activity.

I'm so excited.

(Oh, hi college applications...I didn't see you there. No, I haven't been ignoring you. What? No, not at all...)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Birth Order Book, by Kevin Leman

"I don't read self-help books. On any given day my self seems to need so much help that 200 pages of cheerful advice and end-of-chapter exercises miss the core of my dilemma. The real question keeping me up at night is this: What the hell is a self anyway? How did I get one and why is it so damn desperate for help?" - Adam Frank

Naturally, that is how I start a post about the self-help book I just finished.

Leman claims that birth order has a significant impact on how you turn out as a person--to the point that he gets scared if he's on a plane and the pilot isn't a functional firstborn or only child. This book outlines the typical characteristics of each birth order, how to deal with it yourself, how to deal with it in others, and how to take it into account when parenting.

With the exception of one of my sisters, his predictions fit my entire family almost perfectly. It's kind of freaky (in that halfway through the chapter on firstborns I was shouting "THESE ARE MY PEOPLE." And that's only a little bit of an exaggeration).

All of the psychology and analysis is interspersed with stories about his clients, and his own family. He's a likable enough person, and it's always amusing to be reading along and find something that describes someone you know to the letter.

The whole book is fascinating (to anyone who has siblings, anyway), and I'd recommend it to anyone who has an interest in that sort of thing. My mom picked it up a couple days ago and decided that all five of us were going to read it, so we'll see what happens after I'm not the only one in the house with this Deep and Perceptive Knowledge about the Mysterious Secrets of Birth Order.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Crazy Thoughts From the Beach

"Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint." - Mark Twain

Late last night I was standing on the picnic table on the back porch of the beach house my family's renting for the week, looking out over the ocean. And I thought about just how freaking amazing the world is.

The universe is enormous. There are stars 13 billion light years away. We live here. We live on a tiny little insignificant planet somewhere in the middle of it all and nothing we do really matters in the grand scheme of things but doesn't that make it so much better?

If I'm eating a really delicious bagel, no one else cares. It matters so little, but I'm sure as heck enjoying that bagel a lot. So who cares if it doesn't matter? I and thousands of other people are eating bagels that are good and getting pleasure from that. The simple fact that you can eat a bagel and it can make you happy is awesome.

I don't understand why it bothers people to think about how all of our emotions are just biochemical processes, because doesn't that make it that much more amazing? A few chemicals floating around in your brain can make you feel so wonderful or so miserable and how does that even work? How can chemicals make you feel so strongly? I don't know. I don't know, but I love it.

And there's so many people. I looked to my left and saw another island all lit up, and there was a couple walking along the beach with flashlights and they all have thoughts and lives and people they know and people they like and I have no idea what all of it is because we don't know each other at all and have entirely separate experiences of life except maybe they saw me standing on a table and laughing at the sky and thought I was crazy. 

Which, you know, would be a fair assumption.

I have a friend who says the only reason to believe in God is if that belief makes you happy.
This is why I don't.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


"I haven't the slightest idea how to change people, but I still keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out." - David Sedaris

I just got back from a week of intense philosophy-learning at debate camp in Oklahoma (hate Kant, love Rousseau), and that was very interesting and full of adventures, but I really want to talk to you guys about one of the people I met there for completely unrelated reasons.

In fact, I met him because I was sitting on a table in a laundry room attempting to play Oblivion with a track pad.

His name is Hazel (but all of the college students call him Pops), and he's the head of security (or something like that) at the university I stayed at. He's also a retired pilot who fought in Vietnam, and has been all over the world. He wasn't busy doing much of anything so he decided to hang around and tell us stories about his life, local history, and dumb college students he's had to help.

One of them honestly didn't know what an elevator was, or how one would go about getting to the third floor of a building. I ask you.

My one friend's been joking with me a lot this week saying "oh my god, your life is a YA novel." This part actually sort of was. He's a super old, knowledgeable guy who's seen practically the whole world and looks a little like Morgan Freeman and was totally willing to just hang out and tell us stories and is basically just fantastic. It was so cool.

And then we saw him again this morning as we were once again sitting around in the laundry room waiting for our ride to the airport and he came in to do his morning ritual of putting ten bucks into the vending machine to get back dollar coins to put into his Savings Tin Can.

I now have five dollar coins in my wallet.

He also taught us how to identify drag queens by looking at their hands (biological males' middle fingers are apparently proportionally longer?), and is the only politically correct Oklahoman I met on the whole trip. Or at least, the only one who cares about being PC.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Universe in a Single Atom, by HH The Dalai Lama

"The most important point is to ensure that science never becomes divorced from the basic human feeling of empathy with our fellow beings. Just as one's fingers can function only in relation to the palm, so scientists must remain aware of their connection to society at large. Science is vitally important, but it is only one finger of the hand of humanity...What matters above all is the motivation that governs the use of science and technology, in which ideally heart and mind are united." - The Dalai Lama

Welcome to the 2012 installment of "Olivia Reads Nonfiction Over the Summer and then Blogs About It." Unlike last year when it was all neuroscience, yesterday at the library I found The Universe in a Single Atom.

It's not about reconciling religion with science. The Dalai Lama does not find that terribly interesting. Instead, he operates under the assumption that they can be, and then gets on with his book. Instead of looking at Buddhism through a scientific lens, he looks at science through a Buddhist lens--how does science relate to things that Buddhism and those that practice it care about?

His tutors didn't bother with science when he was growing up, but in his teens he went on an Epic Quest (my words, not his) to learn, using his station to visit some of the greatest minds in their respective fields who were willing to spend a few days talking him through important concepts.

This book is kind of fantastic. It's well-written to the point that the mere act of reading is enjoyable, and contains all of the excitement and wonder that actual scientists got over a long time before they got published. His Holiness is incredibly humble--always stopping to praise his teachers and friends-- and even more genuine in his thoughts and curiosity. It makes me smile.

The religion vs. science rivalry is something I got over a long time ago, but it's still a dichotomy that I find interesting, so it's nice to look at both of them at an entirely different angle. It's not about science's place in Buddhism, or any other religion. It's about science's place in life, and in humanity-- why we should care about it, as well as why it can't and shouldn't be the center of everything.

I'm only about 30 pages in, but I love it to pieces. You should read it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

This is a Post About Love

"A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone." - Game of Thrones

(Title in reference to this song)

Last week my friend was telling us a story in which a man told a bunch of teenagers he knew for certain that they'd never been in love. Now, I'm inclined to believe that he's probably right, but it still made me think.

When we're young, we can't be trusted to know when we are or are not in love. Heck, when I was (much) younger I had this whole thing about "Wait, how am I supposed to tell if I have a crush on someone?" Is it love? Is it infatuation? Is it just strong "like" ? So other people determine it for us-- you are not in love.

But then when you hit a certain age you're suddenly trusted to know these things, without anyone looking at you and saying "Yes, now you are in love. Real love."

So really, how can you trust any given adult to know what being in love is like any better than a teenager? Sure, it's more likely, since most people grow wiser with age (and if you observe them in a loving relationship, then they presumably have experience with these things), but it's not guaranteed. Just like there's 16 year olds who are more than able to vote intelligently and 30 year olds who really aren't.

I really, really like the passage that I quote in this post, since it actually lays out some criteria for it. My English teacher this past year hands it out to her freshmen when they read Romeo and Juliet and her juniors just because. And I'm very glad to have it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Comment

"Personally, I'm largely in favor of knowing things, but I think what sucks about being forced to learn a whole bunch of things you aren't directly interested in and don't see any inherent value in and don't need to know is that it makes learning things sort of terrible. Like, I don't think there are very many people who _really_ only care about either mathy things or languagey things. I think everyone has a very unique and eclectic range of interests, and they are interested in things to varying degrees, and I think the good kind of knowing things is having the ability to explore and understand and use those interests in a way that makes you excited about life and knowing even more things and gaining new interests and learning about them." - Ladylechuga, in a comment

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I'd Like to Know

I have a friend who once wrote an entire essay (for English) about how he doesn't understand why he, a future engineer, needs to take English or be required to read certain books. I have another friend who's annoyed that important college-entrance things like the ACT require him to do math, even though he wants to go into theatre, which isn't exactly math-intensive.

Personally I'm on the side in favor of English, but I'd argue against both of them--not that I think a theatre major will ever need to use math beyond maybe geometry, but because I basically figure that knowing things is good.

Then again, I'm one of those crazy people who finds most things at least a little bit interesting, so that helps. In Spiderman last night when Harry asks Peter, "Who'd want to know that?" and he replied "Who wouldn't want to know that?" I thought "YOU UNDERSTAND ME!"

I agree that at some point it only makes sense to focus in on one area and not bother learning the other stuff, but I'm not exactly sure when that should be. Because on the one hand, if you really don't care about xyz and really don't think you'll ever want/need to know it, you shouldn't have to waste your time. But I also think that the more you know just in general, the better off you are.

Or, you know, maybe I just feel better about myself when I know things.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I Dreamed a Dream

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” - Terry Pratchett

I love how dreams are something we can all relate to and talk about, but they're the most intensely private things we have.

We can talk about the "chased but can't run" dream or the "naked in public" dream and almost everyone has had those experiences. We all know how dream logic works, and how flying works and how it feels, and how dreams melt into each other.

But at least for right now, it's completely impossible to actually experience someone else's dream. It's something we absolutely must do alone. (Unless you're Leonardo DiCaprio, of course.)

I don't really have a point here--this is just a thing I was thinking about. There's probably a great metaphor I could find or something, but I'm going to go watch Spiderman with my family instead.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Blog Post (About Summer and Things)

"A man's character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation." - Mark Twain

Graduation was today, and the valedictorian's speech referenced Lord of the Rings, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Stephen Colbert. Needless to say, it made me very happy. Although I do have a lot of senior friends I probably won't ever see again, so...I'm somewhat less happy about that.

And no, I don't count as a senior yet. Not until the water tower across the street from my school reads "Class of 2013." And to think when I was younger I thought that whole thing was really stupid. Doesn't everyone know that the class of 2006 is graduating in 2006? What's the point? Let's just say I get the point now.

I'm not by any means taking a victory lap class-wise next year (6 or 7 AP classes), but life-wise? I'm good. Really good. Happy about the way things have shaped up, and several lightyears beyond excited for everything coming up. 

(My natural anxiety says everything will fall down in shambles around me, but I'm ignoring him. He's annoying.)

Writing-wise (that is what this blog was originally supposed to be about, right?), lack of a Macbook means lack of Scrivener means lack of ability to work on novels, but I am working on a sort-of play (prose for now, with every intention of switching formats later on), which is a different but fun experience that I'm enjoying. So far it's kind of a mixture of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (except less awesome).

And then of course, there's the sheer fact that it's summer. Hard to be upset about that.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

We Are Everywhere

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London

I've read a lot of things in various places in the wonderful wide world of the Internet about how history curricula  often overlook LGBT(and all the other letters) history entirely and how that's an enormous problem and so on, so I was pleased when the video we watched in class today actually mentioned the first big protests on the issue back in the 70s.

But I had to laugh when the crowd was shown carrying enormous signs reading "WE ARE EVERYWHERE."

If someone's repulsed by a group of people but they can't always determine whether or not someone belongs to that group on sight...the best thing to do probably isn't to remind them that they are likely surrounded on all sides. Just saying.

I get what they're trying to do--"we're a large minority and you probably (know/are friends with/related to) a lot of us and you should think about that before you say/think offensive things"-- but...I don't know, I feel like I would just be more paranoid and literally homophobic than I was before if I was one of those people.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird, My English Teacher, and Terry Pratchett

“Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.” ― Terry Pratchett

My English teacher has a lot of quirks when it comes to books (which is probably in the job description, but bear with me). For instance, she cannot go into a book store without buying a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, and then giving it to either a student or a random person she thinks should have it. She worships that book, and would marry Atticus in a heartbeat if she was single and had the opportunity.

She also never keeps novels. She reads them, sure, but after she's finished, she gives them away.

I was thinking about that today, and how I own about 300 books, most of which are novels. Why am I hanging onto them, when almost everything I read is from the library or my book club?

Some of them I just haven't read yet.
Some of them are gifts from my grandma, and you can't really just give away a book if my grandma gives it to you. She's just that kind of person.
Some of them are ARCs, so it's harder to give them away.
Some of them are things me/my sisters have/will need for school.
Some of them I want to reread at some point, or save for my eventual children.
Some of them I just need to own. Need. My English teacher is not a fan of Harry Potter (and in telling us this she referred to it as science fiction-- I about exploded), so she apparently does not run into this problem. I am mentally incapable of giving away my copies.

And then there are the rest--about 30--which I took to the used book store today. I felt immensely satisfied.

...And then I promptly spent all of the resulting store credit (plus some) on a copy of every Terry Pratchett book they had.

Funny thing: I'm looking at Goodreads' list of Terry Pratchett quotes (because I haven't actually read anything by him yet-- he's just next on the list), and I found this:
“If you have enough book space, I don't want to talk to you.” ― Terry Pratchett

Monday, May 7, 2012

Music 2012

“Still though, I think if you're not self-obsessed, you're probably boring.” ― Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers, you make me feel so validated. Thanks to aliceling (whose blog is amazing and you should go read) for the quote

It's been a year since my last music post, so I thought I'd give you all a new look at things. The top 10 in my iTunes isn't terribly accurate, since most of that is what I was listening to on repeat while writing over the summer, so I'm just going to link you to some of the things I love a lot right now.

"The Cave" by Mumford and Sons is amazing to the point that it is on mix CDs in my and two of my best friends' cars and we sing it whenever we go places together.

The Mountain Goats, just in general. I saw them in concert a few weeks ago and it was awesome. "Heretic Pride" is one of my favorites but "No Children" (if you're into upbeat songs about miserable people) and "This Year" are also fantastic.

"We Looked Like Giants" and "Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab for Cutie, plus others. Their concert last summer was also awesome.

"The Engine Driver" and "The Rake's Song" (if you're into upbeat songs about child murderers) by the Decemberists. I heard their concert last spring was awesome.

"Modern Love" by Matt Nathanson (who my sister refers to as "Sexy Beard Man") is a song my youngest sister and I sing at obnoxious volumes when I'm driving her to get ice cream. I also sing it at obnoxious volumes when I'm driving by myself. (Actually, I sing a lot of things at obnoxious volumes when I'm driving by myself.)

Aaaaand just so this is a proper top-ish 10, we'll throw in "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel-- something else that is in my car. And played with my friend on her guitars which was kind of amazing.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

In Which Prom Is A Thing I Talk About

You read books or watch movies or whatever and they make prom out to be this massive thing that's the pinnacle of your high school career and you look forward to it for weeks and you go to the spa and get a full-body wax because it's prom also you intend to have sex with your boyfriend so a visit to the spa is apparently necessary. Combine with stress, anxiety, and alcohol. Stir.

Or at least I've read books like that.

I am going to prom this weekend. It's nowhere near the pinnacle of my high school career, I was looking forward to this week more for my biweekly writing group than I was for prom, my "date" is my best friend so as much as I like her if any sex is had I've definitely wound up in the Twilight Zone, What is this "spa" you speak of?

Really. The extent of some prom hype is ridiculous. Yeah, I'm excited for it, and yeah, I'm sure it'll be fun,'s not the defining moment of my life, or anywhere close to it. I'm glad I'm going, wouldn't be the end of the world if I wasn't, you know? It's just a dance, plus dinner. And I have to wear heels.

Quite honestly as incredibly nerdy as it sounds the thing I've done that's come as close to what prom is "supposed" to be is the State debate championship.

Dressed up? Check.
Excited for weeks beforehand? Check.
Lots of money spent? Check.
Fantastic time with friends? Check * 100.
"Highlight" of high school experiences so far? Check.
Slept in a hotel with someone I love? Check.
Loads of pictures all over Facebook? Check.

I've got this down, man.

So just for kicks, tell me your prom stories, guys. I want to hear them. Or at least...I want to hear the stories of the few of you who are actually old enough to have been to a prom. Because I think about a third of you I'll be seeing Saturday night. :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Better Than Obama (or at least snarkier)

Earlier tonight, President Obama gave an address from Afghanistan.

I only watched about half of it and have absolutely nothing to say on that topic.

I only watched about half of it because the first "real" post on Corrected Proofs had just gone up, and it was far, far more entertaining so I read that instead. I am a terrible American. Truly I am.

Corrected Proofs is a project two of my friends and I have started, and...well, I'll just let you read the About page over there. My first post is scheduled for tomorrow, but the one that's up now is genuinely hilarious--and that's an honest recommendation (not just shameless promotion of my friend/blog).

Go watch us be bitter and bask in our own cleverness.

Oh, and you know, talk about what makes high quality literature and the fact that a lot of books completely fail at achieving that standing. Something like that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In which I am extroverted

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London

I really love the process of getting to know someone.

It's different when you've grown up with them. You experience things along with them as they happen. You get a text or an email or a phone call, and you exchange thoughts about it. It's exciting in its own way, but it's comfortable. It's normal. You know them, and almost everything you find out are things they're just experiencing and finding out too.

But when you don't know someone very well, but you know you want to know them much better. And you talk and there's little details that filter through the random conversation and you start learning a long series of little things that make up the person in their entirety. And you think "wow, you're a human being and I love that you're a human and you're a rather spectacular human and gosh I just want to keep talking to you."

Now that's amazing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

States 2012

Welcome to the blog of 2012's novice Lincoln Douglas debate's North Carolina state champion.

Which affects absolutely nothing other than me and my team's happiness and ego.

But really this entire weekend was essentially the greatest of my life. Tournaments are over for the year, though, so now I'm sad. Not so much for the end of the debate season as for the end of the Spending Entire Weekends With My Team.

Plans for next year include training up the best bunch of novices the world has ever seen, going to even more tournaments, and hopefully starting an Ethics Bowl team as well (which is a goal that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I have a lot of friends who do Ethics Bowl, or the fact that I want to crush their teams, or the fact that some of them have a vendetta against debate. None of those things have the slightest bit of impact on my enthusiasm for this idea).

Summer plans include stalking university libraries for philosophy books and possibly going to debate camp with one of my favorite people. I am excited.

Highlights From Tournament:

Opponent: "My opponent is human and humans are not perfect therefore her argument is flawed and you should vote Aff."

Both me and the other Olivia on the team getting called communists independently of each other.

Certain members of my team singing Eye of the Tiger behind me as we walked to finals.

The rest of my team showing up for finals as my Highly Impressive and Amazing Entourage, compared to my opponent's measly self-styled mini-posse. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Oh hey look a bunch of quotes

“Children become readers on the laps of their parents.” - Emilie Buchwald

"Accident, n.: A condition in which presence of mind is good, but absence of body is better." - Unknown

"Some people have so much respect for their superiors they have none left for themselves." - Pete McArthur

"There is something that is much more scarce, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability." - Robert Half

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Just the Crazy Ones

"Political statuses and pictures rarely change someone's mind: often, all they accomplish is hurt. Amendment One is an important issue, but voting for it doesn't make you less intelligent, and voting against it doesn't make you less Christian. Don't get me wrong: it's fine to have an opinion. But there are ways to state it that don't harm others. 'Reckless words pierce like a sword.'" - my friend Sam's Facebook status

I follow a page on Facebook called "Being Liberal." They sometimes post political cartoons that make me laugh.

They also do a lot of Republican-bashing. This bothers me. Sure, some conservatives are self-righteous, hypocritical, and annoying. But so are some liberals. It's one thing to point out "Look, what you're saying here doesn't really match up with what you're saying over here," but it's quite another to openly disparage an entire political party just because some of its members are being dumb.

There's a lot of talk about making people be more tolerant and accepting of beliefs and lifestyle choices different from their own. works both ways, people.

I mean, with things like racism, too bad. Racial political and social equality is a thing that does and should exist. Segregation = not okay. End of story. But some beliefs are just based on what they believe the role of government should be in society, and that's a matter of opinion. I can think you're wrong. I can be infuriated by your opinion. I can think you're absolutely freaking insane. But that doesn't give me the right to be rude to you.

Let's take the insurance-covering-birth-control debate as an example. The people who want to limit access to it truly believe that using it is wrong. They aren't out on a vendetta against women. They're trying to make sure people do what they believe are good things. So even if I think they're dead wrong, and that even if they were right it isn't the government's place to be regulating something like that, I still need to understand that and treat them with the proper amount of respect.

"100 Things You Can Say To Irritate a Republican" is not terribly funny. "Math even conservatives can understand" is just offensive.

And okay, sometimes I do laugh at this type of joke. But as someone in my book club said, "We don't mean all conservative Christians. Just the crazy ones." Yeah...still feels wrong to me.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

To Shoot a Zombie

"To love another person is to see the face of God." - Victor Hugo

I really admire people who live deliberately. Who live according to their values not because they should but because they really do value those things, and they value them a lot.

My grandma would not shoot a zombie if it was running toward her teeth-bared because she is a pacifist to the core. (This is a fact. I have asked her.) I'm not a fan of violence, but you'd better believe I'd be firing away at that zombie.

It should be noted that my grandma is a much better person than I am. Although I doubt any of you would tell me I'm in the wrong in that particular scenario (unless you just felt like arguing).

I might completely disagree with you on a point, but that doesn't lessen my admiration at all-- like in the case of some of the people A. J. Jacobs encountered in The Year of Living Biblically. Now they are some inspiring people.

I might think you're being unreasonable. I might think you're being extreme. I might think that it really doesn't matter that much so why are you making such a big deal about it and you know there are plenty of complications and shades of gray involved with this so why don't you consider some of those, but the truth is that even if I think any of those things, I still respect you enormously for it.

This is also one of the reasons behind my adoration for all of the people I've met the few times I've been to the Quaker Meeting I love gushing about on here. They care. They care about people, and each other, and the Meeting, and being Quakerly, just matters. To become an official member you have to prove before a clearance committee that it really is important to you and you really are going to take it seriously. And I love that.

All of these people make me reevaluate myself and my decisions and make me into a better person. So thank you.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lexapros and Cons, by Aaron Karo

"I wrote things for the school's newspaper, and - like all teenagers - I dabbled in poetry." - Stephen Colbert

Chuck Taylor owns a pair of Chuck Taylors in every single solid color available. Each color is associated with a mood, and he chooses his shoes for the day accordingly. His parents send him to a psychiatrist for his OCD, he loses his best friend, and there's a hot new girl at school. Cue plot.

I picked up this book to read for my Mock Printz club because I thought it'd be a laugh. Chuck Taylor who wears Chuck Taylors, right? Hahahahaha.

Then I turn to Page 1, and find this lovely opening sentence:
"In the past year, I masturbated exactly 573 times."
It was something of a struggle to get to Sentence Two (which then broke that number down into per week and per day). Put that sentence on page 5, sure, but please don't open with that. It sets the tone for the whole novel, and that's not the kind of novel I want to read.

But okay. He has OCD. He keeps track of weird things. The author is just showing us that in a way that will get our attention. And it certainly got my attention-- in the form of making me want to close the book.

No, Chuck Taylor brings up his tally for 2011 at every possible opportunity for the next 60 pages. The entire first page is about this number, the second page is just how often he uses the bathroom, and a little later on there is an entire spread all about the wonders of internet porn (did you know there's a Sensual Moon III?).

Yes, teenagers think about sex a lot. I think we all understand this. You have made the book relatable on the level of your choosing. Let's bring something else into the mix, shall we? Engaging characters? Interesting dilemma? Plot line I want to see through to the end? No? Just the student body president's breasts and how they're like cantaloupes? Okay then.

Compulsion to bring up sex at every possible moment aside (oooh, see that? An OCD pun. I'm so clever), the writing is just repetitive. Maybe that was done intentionally- I'll give Mr. Karo the benefit of a doubt there- but when an entire page is devoted to
 "My name isn't actually Chuck. It's Charles...No one actually calls me Charles. I go by Chuck. That's what everyone at school calls me...Let's just say that's what my teachers and my one friend call me. Whatever. It's better than Charles."
...I think there's a bit of a problem.

The author seems to have been fairly successful with his other books (Ruminations on College Life and Ruminations on Twentysomething Life), and I've just read a few pages of the former, and it really is pretty hilarious. But it isn't a novel. It's...a collection of hilarious paragraphs about college.

Is Lexapros and Cons funny? Sure. Does it do a good job addressing the trials of actually having OCD? I assume so. People who are not me will enjoy it, but it's still not quality reading, and it's still just getting 2 stars.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Five Rules

"I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it."  - Edith Sitwell

One of my friends went on her first date ever today, so I was trying to give her advice, and since you should be in awe of my vast and varied (read: extremely limited) dating experience, I will share that wisdom with you.

5 Rules for First Dates, According to ElfArmyWrites

1. Make sure it is actually a date.

Seems like a no-brainer, but it's pretty important when you think about it.

2. Don't sit near your best friend's relatives.

It will be awkward.

3. Make sure the movie you intend to see actually exists.

Deciding to see a movie at 6:30 and then a week later seeing that there aren't actually any showings of that movie at any theaters in your entire city at 6:30 or- even anywhere near 6:30 for that matter- can be a bit of a problem.

4. Don't hit a deer.

That would be bad. Coming very close to hitting a deer is also bad. And, at least here in North Carolina, there are a lot of them.

5. Don't break his (or her) GPS.

Although it's okay if it turns out the stand snaps right back on and you discover the Dictionary function in the process. Did you guys know GPS's have Dictionary functions?

Bonus Rule: See Rule 1.

This is somewhat significant when planning the Second Date.

Thus ends the advice portion of our show. This segment is unlikely to return until such time when I have really hilarious things to add.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


"You don't mess with a lion. The lion is the king of the jungle. The lion will destroy you." - Part of my analysis of The Old Man and the Sea. This is deep, AP-level stuff, guys.

Today I received an email from Figment. Attached was a permission form for something I'd written and posted on their site to be included in an anthology.

I went back to reread it/figure out what I'd actually said and decided I really don't like some of the phrasing. But hey. Gaiman's Law dictates I'm going to be annoyed with something no matter what.

But still--published in an ebook being sold for charity. I an okay with this.

Also, can we appreciate my writing group and our collaborative story involving Rick Santorum taking over the world and being stopped by an army of hipsters.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Districts 2012

"This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it." - William Goldman

My face is pretty sunburned right now. Why? Because I was at a debate tournament all weekend. 
Yes. Really.

They were running it with double-elimination, so as soon as you lost two rounds, you were out. I lost Round 1 due to Hitler (65 years dead and still doing damage, that man), won Round 2 against one of the top varsity debaters the local elite private school has (YES), and then lost the first round of the day on Saturday due to the judge being far beyond competent.

Which means I spent most of the day lying on the grass with my friends- playing frisbee, looking for cloud shapes, watching (and quoting every line of) The Princess Bride, and stalking our debate idols. Which means it was pretty much the best day ever.

I didn't expect to do well (I'm usually in Novice, and these were all the top 4 varsity people from each team- we just have one varsity guy so I got to go anyway), so that was fine, and I learned loads from the few rounds I did have.

Our duo interpretation team is going to Nationals, and one of my fellow Novice debaters is one of the alternates in our event--which is just mind-blowingly amazing. (Since she was on Neg in finals, and Aff won, does that mean it's morally permissible for us to target and kill her opponent so that she can go?)

The State Championships are next month, they have a Novice category, and the topic is the same. We are going to own that thing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Flash Cards and Coloring

"Sin is not genetic. Sin is a made up concept and I dare you to show me one shred of evidence of sin in my genetic code…You are saying that an entire group of people are sinful and amoral and unnatural. You want to talk the talk, you better have the fucking evidence to back it up or else it is nothing more than unadulterated bigotry." - a friend of mine

When my best friend and I were in 4th grade, our school changed their policy so that every kid who rode a given bus had to go to a specific room after school, instead of just waiting in their classroom for the bus to be called. We weren't in the same class at the time, so this was pretty great.

We spent the hour or so until our bus arrived making "flash cards" - slips of paper with little phrases on them, which we would read over every now and then. Things like "llamas are cool," or "[boy we knew's name] is dumb." Quotes from movies we thought were funny. That sort of thing.

Today the kids at the writing club we volunteer at were being pretty productive on their own, so we grabbed some crayons and started coloring, which eventually lead to a new set of flash cards.

The index card coloring my best friend gave me, and a notebook paper envelope full of flash cards- completely elementary school-style. Also, the first two pages of a skit I'm working on.
Some of the cards were the same, for nostalgia's sake (and because we still know a certain boy, and he's still pretty dumb). Others praised the awesomeness of a few of our friends, ranted about corporate hypocrisy and more current male targets of frustration, and quoted from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Plus, the obviously necessary, "The kids probably think we're weird."

All in crayon, I might add.
I fully intend to keep these forever.