Thursday, May 26, 2011

Diario de Viaje!!

I'm going to Peru tomorrow!! And I got an early birthday present from mis padres so I can take pictures while I'm there!! If you can't tell from all the double exclamation points, I am super excited!!

I was going to take a super-excited-face picture of me holding my lovely camera, but my webcam is seeing red so it would look really strange. So after much messing around with software and cables and stuff, here is my first self-portrait from my new camera.

I promise I'll take a bunch of pictures (I'll be gone for 6 weeks and I get to go to Machu Picchu while I'm there!) and as long as I can find a nice Internet cafe, I should be able to post some of them. If I haven't already told you five million times, I'm going to be working/interning/volunteering at an elementary school in Cusco. And taking a bit of Spanish. And hopefully lots of sightseeing and shopping! I can't wait for all the alpaca wool :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reading and Rereading

Wow, I've been making a habit of disappearing from the Internet. This time, I was on a reading binge. I've read 9 books in the 13 days I've been has been wonderful! I'm crossing things off my ridiculously long book list and I'm a third of the way to 100 books for the year!

I've never really thought about it, but there's a huge difference in reading for the first and the gazillionth time. These 9 books have all been new. Over the past two years at school, most of the books I've read have been the ones I loved enough to buy.

In a way, I was kind of tired of the books I have. On a reread, you know the plot twists, the funny parts, the sad parts. You know exactly what to expect - except for the few times the author really surprises you by sneaking something in. I love that about rereading, noticing all the little details. But right now I'm just too close to the last read that there's not any sense of newness.

On the other hand, reading something new can be tense. You worry about the characters, you get angry or sad when you don't need to, you are so surprised at every little twist. The best part is you get to go somewhere new. I've been in 13th Century England, 1940s Poland, faery kingdoms, present-day North Korea, places based on medieval Russia and ancient India, and somewhere totally made up. All in one week :)

If you can't tell, I read a lot of random stuff. It's nice to go back and forth between fantasy and "reality" in books. Especially when you're crazy like me and read one a day for days in a row, sometimes that really helps me keep the books straight. Mostly, though, I just like reading. I don't read horror books or really sappy romances very much, but everything else is fair game!

Also, I noticed I have a bad habit of making alliterations in my titles. It's weird. I don't normally do that, I promise!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fear and Fantasy

I was going to go on a long political rant today, based off a couple of articles I read this morning. But then I read a book instead, and now I've got all these other things tumbling around in my head. The book Plain Kate, by Erin Bow, is about witches and revenge and family and an orphan named Kate (and it uses a Slavic legend!).

So I was thinking about witches and witch hunts in books, since one of my main characters is a witch and they aren't well liked in the country at the time. In contemporary fiction, though, witches and wizards are more often portrayed as good and less likely to be burned at the stake. Didn't a lot of us who read the Harry Potter books wish for our own letter from Hogwarts? We've done that to a lot of the things people used to be scared of - werewolves are more like trained dogs, vampires would rather play baseball than kill people, zombies can be the comic relief.

Instead of fantasy creatures and magic powers, people are scared of terrorist attacks and robbers and going bankrupt. These fears are a lot more real, but our reactions to them seem to be the same. Witch hunts? We have the Red Scares, racial profiling, immigration raids.

Well, erm, to avoid the ranting that would come if I stayed on that topic...I think using fantasy elements to represent humanity's fearfulness is a lot more exciting than writing a book about real evils. For me at least. All of the ideas I have that happen present day are terrible. I'm not even being modest - I really should just throw them all out. Some people can write good contemporary fiction; I much prefer making up my own world, with its own rules and people. And lots of magic :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Measures of Morality

Sorry I've disappeared for the past week. I got home from school on Tuesday night and I've been doing as little as possible ever since. Well, as much relaxing as possible - I read 3 books, played some Wii and computer games, and caught up on my T.V. shows. I kept meaning to write something, and then I just couldn't think of anything.

But thanks to my dear sister, I have this morality quiz to share. You can find this and other interesting surveys here.

My score is in green, the average for "liberals" is blue, and the average for "conservatives" is red. I'm not all that surprised, but it's interesting to see how you fit in with people that are supposed to have the same political values as you.

 You can click on it to see a bigger image.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Review: Megan Whalen Turner

I've been packing all day. It's been wonderful! Packing = relaxing. Since talking about that any more would be really boring, I decided I would do a book review! Or really series review! Yay!

So...Megan Whalen Turner! She is my favorite author in the whole world. I have read and reread these books so many times! DON'T read the Wikipedia articles (or probably anything else), there are big spoilers on all of them!

Book #1 The Thief
This book is sneaky. Gen, the thief, gets taken out of prison to steal...something. You think you know what's going on, it's a typical journey story, and then BAM! At the end there's a totally unexpected surprise! There are so many details that she builds up to this wonderfully complex thing. It kind of sets the stage for the rest of the books. Most of the characters that pop up in the other books are introduced, it describes a lot of the scenery, and there's lots of cool mythology. The world and myths are loosely based on Greece and Greek mythology.

Book #2 The Queen of Attolia
I LOVE this cover. It makes you wonder (for the first few chapters, at least). It's a few years later, and a lot more stuff is going on (politics, wars, more sneakiness). There's lots of Gen-inspired mischief happening in all 3 countries. I don't want to write a summary, really, because I wouldn't want to give anything away. It goes more in depth for the characters that are just mentioned in The Thief (especially Eddis and Attolia's queens) and has a broader view of the countries outside of the original 3.

Book #3 The King of Attolia
The second one's cover makes you wonder. This one's TITLE makes you wonder (until you get to the end of QoA, then you have it figured out). Crazy nonsense is going on in the palace after Attolia gets married - almost everyone is plotting something or other. You're introduced to Costis, who gets in trouble, gets pardoned, and then has no clue what he's gotten himself into. If I HAD to pick, I think this would be my favorite. The wording, mostly the metaphors MWT uses, is SO WITTY. Seriously, I giggle all the time reading this because she is just SO clever and subtle.

Book #4 A Conspiracy of Kings
This one is so different from the first three, because it shifts the focus away from Gen (sob), Attolia, and Eddis and to Sounis and...a character who I won't name because that might spoil something. Not really, but it makes it more suspenseful :) but I can't say anything about the plot or it would ruin, at the very least, books 1 and 3. That's how much of the stories and the identities of the characters are intertwined. The MC has to deal with a lot of stuff, mostly political shenanigans and rebellions, and a lot of important people from the first 3 books are part of the action again.

I realize that I haven't told you much about them, but that's because it's better for you to be surprised! Seriously, you can go back and reread the books and notice things that you didn't even think were important at the time. I own the first 3 and will have the 4th once it comes out in paperback and will gladly loan them to you (if you live near me) if you can't find them at a library.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cleaning with Crickets

After being productive and cleaning out my desk, I have a large stack of recycling to take to the bin downstairs. But then a cricket (a really big one) fell from the ceiling and now I'm too afraid to get down from my bed. I have a very irrational but totally justified fear of crickets, especially when they're falling/jumping/sneaking around.

Instead of braving the floor, I'm going to regale you with some of the things I discovered while sorting through all my papers and spirals.
  1. I have managed to collect quite the assortment of paperclips over the school year
  2. I always keep receipts, just in case, but then never get around to throwing them away
  3. I keep things, thinking "Oh I'll make such and such or use this scrap paper blah blah blah" and then I just get piles of useless pieces of paper and no desire to be crafty
  4. I need more file folders. I love those things. Whatever job I end up with, I want to have a file cabinet. I'm very strange, I know :)
  5. I'm surprised by how much I can get rid of, and then I look at the giant stack of stuff I'm keeping and I feel silly. Someday, I may make an appearance on TLC's hoarding show
I'm hearing some strange noises from the other side of the room. I think that sneaky cricket is up to something.

BUT WAIT! It just crawled under my roomie's closet door! I'm free to take the recycling! Hopefully it's gone by the time she needs in her closet...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May the Fourth be with you

I've been debating since yesterday whether or not I really want to do this, but the "GO FOR IT!" half of my brain seems to have won...soooo this is the prologue of the very first book I ever started writing (well, outlining would probably be a better word for it). I finally finished it yesterday after lots of palmreading YouTube videos and procrastination. What do y'all think?
     The young girl bounded into the dimly lit cottage where her great-aunt Mosery sat hunched over a cluttered worktable. “Please, Auntie, I’ve finished the spell, see! Now will you read my palms?”

     The old woman sighed. “Aye, but sit quiet-like ‘til I finish this charm.”

     Kea dragged her stool across the room until she was sitting at her aunt’s elbow. Mosery peered down at her through her foggy glasses. “Ye won’t be leaving me alone ‘til I do the reading, eh?”

     She giggled and shrugged her shoulders.

     Shaking her head, Mosery cleaned off her table and turned to her niece, muttering, “Give yer hand here, then.” As she complied, Mosery closed her eyes and began breathing deeply. Kea stared as flashes of light, in the shape of runes she couldn’t recognize, danced across the room and finally settled over her outstretched palm.

     “Auntie…“ Kea started.

     “Hush, patience is needed,” came the reply.

      A slight humming noise filled Kea’s ears as the runes melted into her hand. Mosery opened her eyes and squinted intently at the lines, now so distinct, on the girl’s palm.

     “Here, child, ye see the three strongest lines. This one, long life and fair health. That ‘un, well, ye seem ruled by yer emotions.” She chuckled as Kea blushed.

     “Hmmm. The middle line, see how far it lies from the lowest? Ye best heed it, for otherwise ye will be making decisions without caution. And what decisions they will be.”

     Alarm flooded Kea’s childish face. “Bad decisions?” Her voice trembled.

     “Well, let’s see,” her aunt said reassuringly, “Ye will be pulled in different directions by yer family. Ah, the decisions. I tell ye, caution yer temper, lest yer fate be controlled by others.”

     “But I don’t have a family, only you!” Kea protested.

     “Nay, I see a marriage, and a young one at that. Many children, yes, but their life is uncertain. Beware the flattering man, for an affair could ruin all ye have built.” Mosery patted the girl’s hand, and the last of the lights faded away.

     Kea yanked her hand out of her aunt’s palm. “I don’t want that, Aunt Mosery. I want a different fortune!”

     “Don’t ye be worrying, child. Magic comes to those who need it.” She nodded, ending the discussion, and sent Kea running back outside with a wave of her hand.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Una Lástima

What an interesting weekend this has turned out to be, for the whole world. Natural disasters in this country. Continuing struggles for freedom against oppressive and violent regimes in Africa and the Middle East. My beloved figure skating happening in Moscow after the earthquake in Japan.

A royal wedding and a celebration of life on Friday. Finding Osama bin Laden and a celebration of death last night.

There have been a lot of interesting things posted on Facebook and in the news since we found out about that last one. Some of the things that people have said, that really nice, good people have said, just break my heart. Yeah, bin Laden was a really horrible person. Absolutely, he murdered thousands of people and deserved a punishment. I highly doubt that there could have been a scenario where he could have been captured and brought to trial. At the same time, it's really sad that there is such a feeling of joy at his death.

Death isn't joyful. While at times it may be a relief for a suffering loved one, it still isn't joyful. While in this case, it may be a relief for the country or the families of his victims, it still isn't joyful. We are still at war. The victims aren't coming back now.

It makes me think of a conversation my sister and Dad and I had one day after a Sunday School lesson, I think when I was home over Christmas break. I think we had read the verse "a time to plant and reap, a time to kill and a time for peace..." and probably another one. We were talking about when it could be "good" to kill. Someone mentioned WW2 and how it was good because it stopped Hitler from murdering more people. We disagreed - we thought that war was a horrible, terrible thing, but that in that case even worse things would have happened without it. I think this matches perfectly with last night's news and reactions.

Killing bin Laden wasn't good. It may have been necessary, but it wasn't good. Good would be the terrorists repenting, changing their minds and embracing peace instead of hate. Good would mean that 9/11 and so many other bombings and attacks would never have happened. Instead of rejoicing, I think today would be a better time for mourning - for remembering what we have lost and trying to prevent further loss. It is also a time to celebrate what is truly good - a happy British couple, peace, new babies, freedom, ending poverty.