Wednesday, April 19, 2017

ABC Book Tag

Spotted this epic tag on Lois Johnson's You Me and a Cup of Tea and stole it like a thief in the night.  I just think it's a really awesome idea, so feel free to steal it yourself if you'd like.

Author you've read the most books from

Maybe C.S. Lewis?  I don't really read books just because they're by an author I like most of the time, so it's hard to say.  The Chronicles of Narnia books are just really short, plus the short Space trilogy and that's ten books right there--and the Screwtape Letters and the Four Loves...

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Best sequel ever

I feel like good sequels are legitimately not a thing.  I honestly can't think of a single example where the sequel improved on the original.

The most acceptable sequel ever is The Two Towers, though I hesitate to really call it a sequel just because it was written in conjunction with the first one and it was just released a little bit later.

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Currently reading

You can always find what I'm reading on the side bar, and true to fashion, I am in the midst of Anna Karenina and Don Quixote.  Don Quixote has taken a back seat because it keeps falling apart  in my backpack and I don't want to wreck it.

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Drink of choice while reading

Tea for two
And me for you
And books for days
That is the way

(Happy national poetry month XD)

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E-reader or physical book


Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school

Peeta--because he is more or less a pushover initially and high schoolers are emotionally frail and need someone they can rule over and manipulate.

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Glad you gave this book a chance

Le Morte D'Arthur because that book is quality.

Hidden gem book

Le Fantome de l'Opera--often overlooked in favor of the musical, but actually really fantastic on its own.

Important moment in your reading life

Reading The Lord of the Rings introduced me to the world of literary criticism, the art of writing, and the fact that writing is actually a for real skill you have to train yourself to get good at.  I never would have found medieval lit without it, and I never would have started blogging.

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 Just finished

Better Off Friends, my easy as pie contemporary for when I needed to give my brain a rest.

Kind of books you won't read

Like Lois said, erotica is off the table.

Longest book you've read

War and Peace, 1400 pages.  Totally worth it and an amazing book I seriously love.

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Major book hangover because of...

It takes basically a year to recover from Les Miserables. You will not be able to move on with your regular life, just saying.

Number of bookcases you own 

Two--one giant in the basement and one regular for my room.

One book you have read multiple times

This is gonna sound super weird, but every time I read The Silmarillion I add a tally to the wall of my closet.  I think I'm around eight tallies maybe?

Preferred place to read

In bed, in the rain.

Those two work separately, but also at the same time.

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Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you've read

"Love not too well the work of thy hands and the devices of thy heart; and remember that the true hope of the Noldor lieth in the West, and cometh from the Sea."

 Reading regret

Any time I spent contemplating reading, actively reading, or pondering the works of Mark Twain.  Absolute waste of time, I may have lost IQ points.  I seriously dislike Mark Twain.

Series you started and need to finish (all books are out in series)

I never finished the Lunar Chronicles because Winter wasn't out yet when I was reading it, and then I forgot everything by the time the book came out and didn't feel like rereading.  I probably never will finish that series.

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Three of your all-time favourite books

The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King ;)

Unapologetic fangirl for..

All things Tolkien.  

Very excited for this release more than all the others

Ha, reading books as they come out.  Ha, reading books by living authors...(*cries in corner because she can't relate*)

Worst bookish habit

SKIMMING!  It has become such a problem for me because I read too quickly and my mind wanders and I don't retain information.

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X marks the spot: start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book

Utopia by Sir Thomas Moore.

Your latest book purchase

A giant collection of all of Jane Austen's novels and a huge book of all of Charles Dickens.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late)

The Once and Future King by T.H. White.  I got it on a Friday, and read it all night long.  I regret nothing.

Steal this tag if you like--happy reading!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Write a story that includes: a tombstone, a first kiss, and a butterfly collection...

(Join in via the comment section if you'd like to finish this prompt yourself, or leave a link to your own site in the comments).  Happy national poetry month, by the way!

White and Black Butterfly on Red Flower

His cheek was beginning to sting from the constant caress of his handkerchief.  

He ran it over his vellum skin a final time and fumbled with the pocket of his stiff plaid shirt until it was secure within.  

He exhaled slowly and observed his brumous breath evaporate into the cold spring air, and vanish like the figments of a dream.

The bright flower of the sky lingered behind the barren trees; too respectful of the man to compel him to endure such a harsh glare.  The sun understood that the man needed the dimness of the dawn.

He listlessly wiggled his toes in his brown loafers, trying to confirm that they hadn't frozen off.  The hoarfrost on the grass was beginning to melt, and his feet quivered with discomfort.

He blinked slowly, and exhaled again.  Before him, an angel held her hands to the sky and spread her wings behind her shapely figure.  With eyes raised up and standing on her tip-toes, it seemed that she would alight from the Earth and soar toward Heaven at any moment.

The man traced the gray figure with his eyes all the way to her stony feet as he had done an infinite number of times, and settled his bright eyes on the writing etched there.  Beneath the statuette, were two dates, and the name of his wife.

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He shook his head.  It couldn't have been more than a few months ago that he had first welcomed her into his home.  He had been much different then, in those late summer days of August that drifted on like molasses.  He had been a strong young man then, and his world was studying; his MIT scholarship had been in the balance then. 

The old man let out a puff of air.  How much time and energy he had expended on getting that scholarship!  And when the time had come to send in his application, he had held back.  There was a war in Europe to be fought, and his place was there; of that he had been convinced.

He could have gone back to school once things were won; he had a promising career as the top of his high school class in the sciences.  

But war changes a man, and all he wanted when he returned was a family.  He would spend the rest of his life working the nine-to-five at a small grocery store.  Sometimes the eight-to-six, as he sometimes called it.  He would always chuckle a little when he called it this, not because he enjoyed the extra work, but because there was nothing that could make him swell with pride more than providing for his wife and their five kids.  

People Sitting on Green Grass

No, at the time he wasn't aware this was coming, or that his life was going to turn that way.  He was, after all, only seventeen in that summer long ago.  

She had come over for some project or another.  He didn't really care at the time, and he certainly didn't remember in his old age.

He did remember with absolute clarity when she stopped him to look at his butterfly collection.  They were in the main room with golden sun pouring through the western windows in his family's small suburban ranch house.  

He had been leading her past the stacks of books and random papers that he had left out all around the room and that his professor father hadn't bothered him to put away when he lost track of her soft step behind him.

He turned around and saw her face tilted up, her long nose high in the air, and her brown hair in ringlets and ribbons spilling over her shoulder.  She held her books before her chest defensively, and her eyes were so wide her lashes kissed her brow.

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He had wandered back over the stacks, and stood just behind her and followed her eyes to the wall.

There was nothing there.  Just a completed butterfly collection hanging on the wall, framed and labelled in neat upper-case script.  Nothing but twenty-four distinct species of Rhopalocera, all neatly pinned and aligned.

She looked back at him with shock and offense in her deep blue eyes.  He raised his eyebrows without a word.

She stepped away and put her hands on her hips, "Are they dead?" She had asked, but it was more of a statement.

"Of course."


He had scoffed a bit here.  How dearly he regretted scoffing at her in that moment!

"It's impossible to observe them alive as accurately as when they are pinned out like that," he explained rationally, "It's just a standard science procedure."

"To kill them?  That's the best you can do?"  She still had not looked at him.  He recoiled at her scorn, though he had no idea why he should care.  She clearly didn't understand.

"Of course, that's the only way to get to understand them closely--"

"You have to kill a thing in order to understand it?  To break something in order to understand it forgets the meaning of understanding."

They had not spoken of it again.

beautiful, bloom, blossom

It was spring of the next year when he invited her to the field his grandpa owned on the outer side of town.  The tulips were just beginning to peel open, and the scent of fresh cut grass hung in the air.  He hadn't told her what the reason for the excursion was, but over the year she had grown used to his strange escapades.  He suspected that she secretly enjoyed the spontaneity.

He instructed her to close her eyes as tightly as she could while he ran back to his cherry red truck and pulled out a cage.

When she opened her eyes again, the field was filled with streams of color, and the tall golden glass tickling her knees.  Butterflies were fleeing into the sky.  Through the mix of color, she had spotted his face, which was beaming beyond suppression.  

It was then that they had first shared a kiss, the first of many that were to come.

He thought of her, smiling amongst those butterflies, her eyes turned toward Heaven and her feet suspending her on her toes.  He looked carefully then at the angel statuette and ran a rheumatic hand along it's cold stone face.  He closed his eyes as tightly as he could.

Grayscale Photo of Left Human Hand

He had been right, long ago of course.  The only way that he could understand the butterflies' beauty was to end them and take their beauty from the world.  It was when they were truly gone that he could grasp their impression and comprehend their complexity.

But he was glad that those butterflies were allowed to fly free.  He was glad that he could see their true beauty all together, even if only for a short time before they flew away.  It was better that way, he decided.

He began to cough, and turned toward the edge of the field, where his son stood leaning against a red pick up truck, waiting for him.  

He waved a hand absently at his son who undoubtedly would make him go inside to get out of the cold in a moment.  He turned away and ambled through the tall grass toward him.

As he made his way back, a pure white butterfly lighted into the angel's hands.

Woman With Wings Statue Grayscale Photo

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Last Jedi Teaser Trailer

Why am I not satisfied with this trailer?

I honestly don't know.  Perhaps I'm just losing fascination with the dramatic stops and starts of teaser trailers--you know, the flashes to black, the deep voice over, etc.

Maybe I've gotten through my Star Wars phase (not that I don't like it anymore, I'm just not obsessed).

Maybe I've been influenced by critics of The Force Awakens and have been convinced that Rey's character is a little too good to be true, the plot is unoriginal, etc.

Before I get ahead of myself though, take a watch of the trailer that was released Friday if you haven't already.

So...first impressions?

I am excited for this movie because it's something I would like to see with my friends and I have two free movie ticket passes I've been saving for the occasion.  Yeah, I know it's like six months away.  But planning ahead is the first step to saving money!

Anywho, I don't like to read too much into teaser trailers just because they very rarely explain the premise of the movie to come at all.  Most of the time you are able to get a general feel for the piece and that's about it.

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This trailer gives me a general feeling of foreboding.  I think it's a combination of Luke's ominous remarks about the order of the Jedi ending, the black screens, and music that adds up to make things seem very mysterious and unsettling.

Perhaps this film will give us a satisfyingly ominous and dramatic moment, just like at the end of the Empire Strikes Back.  That whole film lead up with a nervous aura about the Empire and culminated in a devastating reveal at the end.

 So maybe this film is giving such a feeling of unease because it's about to drop a bombshell on us all.

I hope this film doesn't wildly stray from the general feeling of this trailer, because that would defeat the point of the entire teaser.

These are just a few brief thoughts I have about this trailer, and I'll have more actual analysis once the theatrical trailer drops and we have more information about the actual premise of the film.

What did you think?  What sort of feeling and general aura did you get from this teaser?  What are you hoping will come about through The Last Jedi?

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Life Update Via Gifs

Life Update Time!

I have huge news that I completely ecstatic about...ready?  READY???

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So you know how I did that post about playing melodic minors?  Well I explained in that post that I was working on a melodic minor scale for a big audition I had coming up.  Auditions were last Friday, and I was really stressed out about it.

My initial thoughts after finishing were, "whew, glad that's over!" and "I don't think I'll get in."


Results came in yesterday, and somehow I auditioned into my school's top orchestra!  I was honestly really surprised, but I am super happy about it!

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This top orchestra is so professional and I've wanted to be a part of it ever since I saw my first orchestra concert (when I was a baby...XD)  The girls get to wear these gorgeous floor length gowns and the guys wear the handsomest tuxedos.

My school has a really strong performing arts program and recently this particular orchestra has really gotten super good, and my jaw was practically dropped the whole time I was listening to them at their last concert.  They have a few members who have national recognition, particularly a couple of cellists who have so many awards.  I am so honored that I'll get to play with them next school year!

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There are two minor downsides to moving up a) I'm going to be separated from some of my other orchestra friends who didn't get in and b) things are going to be really hard!  Next year I'm slated to take two AP classes (the rest HP) and now I will have all this orchestra music to learn!  I love a good challenge though.

And getting into this orchestra has really boosted my confidence, and I feel a lot better about auditioning for pit orchestra for my school's fall musical.

So yeah, I am really super pumped about this recent accomplishment, and I have more good news!

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The A string on my violin wore out from too much use!  Yay!  That's a good thing because even though strings are easy to change, it's one more thing about my instrument we have to fix and add that to a couple other problems my violin has been having, and combine that with my recent accomplishment, I think that I may be on my way to getting to upgrade my violin model!

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Other news...

So we're now in the Triduum, which is pretty much the best time of the liturgical year.  The Holy Thursday mass is definitely my favorite of the year.  I play violin with my church's choir every Sunday, and they brought in some other musicians for the Triduum and things are sounding really awesome.  So exciting!

My sister is due May 31st, so we threw her a baby shower which she loved.  We played this game where you pin a clothes pin to your shirt and if you hear anyone utter the word "baby" at any time during the party you get to take their clothespin for yourself.  I became the reigning champion of this game, so I was pretty happy with that.

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My other sister's fiance is going to have his rite of initiation into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil this Saturday and I am so happy for him!  He's really been studying a lot of theology through RCIA and he read the entire catechism over Lent!  We're travelling up to where they live tomorrow so we can witness his confirmation and first communion.

Track is going pretty well.  I cut two whole seconds off my 200 m dash at the last meet.  I had to run with the Varsity girls and I think that going with people that were so good really pushed me to do my best.

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Projects I'm working on:

Violin - Theme from Schindler's List and Concert Repitoire (La Dance Petite by Debussy, Serenade for Strings by Tchaikovsky, and Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega) and of course lots of three octave scales and misc. vibrato and technique stuff

Piano - First Step (the crazy Interstellar arrangement), Pie Jesu, Kiss the Rain, and others sporadically

Writing - Short story for my creative writing class that I'll post here if it gets once it's done and my journal of course

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Stuff I'm into:

Walking to the library with podcasts--it's that time of year again!

Anna Karenina--I'm about a hundred pages in and it is super well written IMO.

This quote: "Art is never finished, only abandoned."  -Leonardo da Vinci

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Looking to le future:

I wanna try out for the musical in the fall, probably for pit orchestra but maybe for stage performance as well.

I wanna get all my three octave scales down over the summer.

I want to try academic decathlon this school year--you know, just to add more stress haha.

Gotta get some quartet music (and a viola player for that matter...)

I hope that things on your end have been going well, and know that I pray for all my readers!  Keep on keeping on, and remember: petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Better Off Friends

Alright, so I wanted a fluffy romantic book to read easily that I didn't have to focus too hard on and that would lighten things up as spring comes along.

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.

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It tells the story of Macallan and Levi through their first meeting in seventh grade all the way through their high school career, their various friendships and relationships, and how they struggled to walk the line between being friends and being something more.

It was a really easy book to read with nice big font (something I haven't even realized I've been missing until I saw it again).  It was told from both Macallan's point of view and Levi's.

In between each chapter there would be a quick conversation between Macallan and Levi discussing what had happened in the previous chapter.  I really liked this section because it was their older selves looking back on their past experiences.

The book wasn't super sad, but it was pretty cute and simple.  It's a quick read and the characters are charming and easy to care about.

It's not a super deep book, but not every book has to be, you know?  If you're looking for something simple to pass the time and entertain you, this book would be a good option.

I don't always recommend contemporary books, but when I do...(it's Better Off Friends).

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

13 Thoughts on 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why has been the hot new series over spring break and everyone at my school has been talking about it.  In a rare act of trying to keep up to date with popular phenomenon, I did watch the series and just finished yesterday.

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I went into the show very warily and honestly from a pretty skeptical and critical point of view, and I came away with lots of thoughts and opinions.  I have decided to limit myself to 13 comments in order to match the trend.

By the way, I have not read the book by Jay Asher that the series is based off of, so I can't speak to any of those aspects.  I will say that this is a creative idea by him that I've never really seen before, and which is really intriguing.

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This post does contain mild spoilers, so be warned!

If you want a quick recommendation, I would suggest that you consider the fact that the series contains lots of profane language, some intense sexual moments including sexual violence, drug use, and graphic depictions of violence.

Generally these scenes can be passed over by careful fast forwarding (it is a Netflix series, after all), but these scenes are critical to the plot.  What I'm saying is that you don't have to watch the actual scenes, but you need to be aware that these moments play into the plot.

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If you decide you are comfortable with these elements being portrayed, then I would suggest watching the show with a fairly critical eye, looking out for good messages where you see them, but acknowledging that there may be some themes that are not quite savory.

I would, however, generally recommend watching the series if not to keep up to date on what is making the rounds in the culture, just because it can open up a lot of conversations, and it's pretty interesting to consider.  Come back if/when you watch the series and we can discuss here!  But for now, spoiler-avoiders begone!

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#1: The Title

I was first a little wary about the show when my friends explained the plot.  The show tells the story of Hannah Baker, a teenager who decides to commit suicide and leaves behind casette tapes for the people she holds responsible for her decision to listen to.

I had problems with the Hannah's cassette tapes which I'll get to in a bit, but first of all, I was worried about the title.  The title is basically 13 Reasons Why I Committed Suicide, which makes it sound like there are valid reasons, ergo suicide can be reasonable.  The reality is that suicide is not a reasonable path, and I think it's a little dangerous to paint the picture like it is, especially for a show geared so much toward a younger audience.

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#2: Depression, Not Reason

Think of all the ways your body involuntarily fights to be alive.  There are so many that you may not even notice, and it takes a very corrupted mental outlook in order to fight against these automatic impulses and actually harm yourself or kill yourself.  

What I'm trying to say, is that someone is not in a reasonable place when they decide to kill themselves.  If Hannah really was the reasonable character who was completely validated in killing herself that the show makes her out to be, then she would have been reasonable enough to see that she doesn't need to commit suicide and she can get help.  Someone in a state like Hannah's is ipso facto incapable of making a reasonable list of why she feels the way she does and who is to blame.

Suicide is not reasonable, and Hannah's decision was not reasonable.  I find it very hard to believe someone in such a confused mental state would be able to come up with 13 clear and logical reasons to commit suicide and still not be logical enough to realize that suicide is not the way to go.

It was her mental problem of depression that drove her to commit suicide, not reason.

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#3: The Blame Game

As soon as I heard the summary of the series, I was very perturbed by the idea that Hannah blamed her decision on the people around her completely.  Yeah, people in high school can sometimes be horrible.  But no one killed Hannah Baker but herself.  People may have contributed, but it's not fair to say--as Tony did--that Clay (for example) killed Hannah Baker.

Hannah had a mental problem, and it's not okay to pin to blame on other people.  This blame game is clearly very detrimental to a character like Alex who tries to kill himself at the end because he has to bear that burden.  

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#4: Production Value

The show did have great production value, and I particularly was drawn to the lighting.  Each shot had very careful lighting that I really appreciated.  There were also great moments of transition throughout that seemed very well thought out and artistic. 

The makeup looked great, especially on Hannah's grief stricken mother and Clay once he rain into a tree at the beginning.  I thought this idea of having a scar on Clay's face was a fabulous idea because it made a clear distinction between past Clay who was scar-less, and post-Hannah-death Clay who did have a scar. 

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#5: Characterization 

Each of the characters in the series were very well developed.  I liked how we got background on each of the characters, particularly Justin.  Justin's story perfectly demonstrates that it is hard to know exactly what is going on in someone's life.  He does some horrible things in the series, but it is heartbreaking to see what is going on in his home.  This isn't to excuse his actions, but rather to show that people are not black and white and there are good things and bad things to everyone.

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#6:  Message of Compassion

I liked the message of compassion and how important it is to treat people nicely and be a friend, which was really highlighted when Clay ran up to Skye in the hall at the end.  While it's not your responsibility to be perfect, it is a small thing that can make a huge difference in someone's life.

A lot of times, people considering suicide are teetering on the very edge of doing it or not doing it, and a simple act can sway them away from making that decision.  It's good to promote compassion among teens and all people, so I'm glad the show did that.

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#7:  Grief After Suicide

Hannah's parents and all her friends have an extremely difficult time after Hannah's suicide recovering.  I like how this shows that suicide doesn't really eliminate pain, it just transfers it to other people, often the people that care most about the victim and the people the victim cares most about.

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#8: Length

The book is very short, with only thirteen chapters.  I have never actually read the book, but I imagine that there is a lot of additional stuff put into the show.  With this comes some pacing problems, which I did notice. 

Around episode 7 or 8 before things really started picking up to escalate the ending, things were getting repetitive and there was an excessive amount of mysterious voice over, and some of the tapes, like that of Zach seemed rather minor offenses that didn't warrant a full episode.

There were just a couple pacing problems, but generally I think it was alright because we were all anxiously awaiting Clay's tape.  I mean, it got my attention well enough to watch the whole series in one week.

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#9:  Abdication of Personal Responsibility

Throughout the whole series, Hannah tells people why it was their fault, but she rarely acknowledges the places she went wrong.  She was not perfect, and there were multiple missed opportunities where she could have sought help.  I know that it's hard to do that when you're in a place like Hannah, and she did try to go to the school counselor, but I wish there had been more recognition in the tapes that Hannah weighed all the things that had happened to her and she had decided to end her life.  No one else decided for her.

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#10: Music

I liked how there were many different tracks used throughout the series.  I think they added a lot of emotion to the show and kept things feeling rather teen-like.  I think the music was done very well for the most part.

#11: The Lawsuit

I don't know how I feel about the Bakers trying to sue the school district because they didn't notice the bullying going on.  I understand that they lost an irreplaceable person, but is it fair to say that the school should have noticed the bullying but it's okay that the parents didn't?  

Taking $200,000 from the school district may make it harder for them to get the resources for other kids they need, like better counselors, etc., no?  This is something I've been considering for awhile, and I wonder what y'all think about this. 

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#12: Acting

The acting in this was the bomb dot com.  Everyone did a great job, in my opinion, particularly Mrs. Baker, Hannah, and Clay.  I think the teens did a good job of holding all their emotions and not knowing how to communicate them.  The parents also did a good job of desperately trying to figure out where their kids were coming from while also trying to allow them space.

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#13: Season Two?

The ending was just a bit confusing to me.  Why was the kid who took all the yearbook photos putting guns in a suitcase with a fake bottom?  What's with all the photos hanging up in his dark room?  Will the case go to trial?

I don't think a season two is necessary because the series got it's message across, and I like the idea of keeping things basic at thirteen. Do you think a season two is necessary or should the show quit while it's ahead?

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Alright, this show has it's flaws.  It does.  It has some messages that viewers should be careful to see and avoid.  It also has some great aspects and can open people up to talking more about these kind of issues. 

Let me know what you thought of the show, and I'll continue to think about it myself.  Who knows, maybe I'll come to a better understanding of it and my opinions will change.  

Have an awesome weekend!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Stargazing 101

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Purple and Black Galaxy Illustration

Are you a bookworm?  Do you notice how many books have references and allusions to stars or the night sky?  The number is ridiculous!  If all these stories find stars to be the most sublime thing they can use to compare, then the stars truly must be magnificent!

We all know that the stars are amazing, but do we truly appreciate them as much as they deserve?  Our ancestors used to look up at the stars and study them rigorously, and now, they are mostly just ignored.  Maybe they're getting to feel lonely without some attention.

So in order to brighten up those stars, we've all gotta get outside as these summer nights approach and do some quality star gazing.

I've always loved astronomy, and stargazing is a summer activity I really enjoy.  Usually I just look up at the stars, but recently I've been looking into the actual factual way you should stargaze, and I've been practicing some techniques.  I'm here to share some tips!  Woo!

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Why to Stargaze

Stargazing is beneficial for many, many reasons.  First of all, it is very humbling and calming to look up into the night sky before bed and it helps slow things down a bit.  If we keep our brains firing on all cylinders by watching TV, even reading, or drawing just before bed, it can be harder to get to sleep quickly.

Looking at the stars also teaches valuable skills, like identifying stars (anyone who does overnight hikes regularly knows how important this can be), patience and focus, not to mention keeping you aware of the season (if you miss the other hints) and can even open you up to learning about the various myths and legends surrounding the stars, and the histories of their founding, naming, and paths across the sky.

Stargazing is an amazing thing to do with friends--or a special someone (*raises eyebrow quizzically*).  Like I said, it's a very humbling position to be in, and may open people up to deep, philosophical discussion.  Or at least discussion about how terrible the mosquitoes are. ;)

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When to Stargaze

Summer is definitely the most popular time for stargazing just because it's really warm and people are generally outside more.  However, winter is by far better for stargazing because the air is much crisper and clearer.  In the summer the atmosphere can be hazy and blurry, particularly if you live in or near a city.

But, if you're like me and you live in the freezing tundra of the upper mid-west, you may not be too keen to go hiking up a mountain in the middle of winter (likely on a school night--gasp!).  It's still really amazing to look even in the summer, though take note that constellations will change and you'll have to reorient yourself as the seasons change.

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Follow a local astronomer's Twitter or other social media in order to keep up to date on when important astronomical events are happening in your area so you can plan to go out and see them.  There's a solar eclipse heading through Nashville this summer, and my friends and I are planning an epic road trip to go see it--it's a once in a life time experience!  Try to keep up to date on things like this as well as smaller events like meteor showers, blood moons, and partial eclipses.

I prefer to stargaze between the hours of 9 and 10 pm just because it is a better time for me schedule-wise, but the later you want to go, usually the better (assuming the moon isn't in the way--more on that in a moment).

Stargazing in the morning is often extremely effective because the air is just a bit cleaner and the moon is usually on it's way.  If you're having a tough time getting out late at night (I am more of a morning person too) then I recommend getting up a bit earlier in the morning.  You can just roll out of bed and head out without much getting ready.

Try to look on moonless nights so the moon's light doesn't get in the way.

Timelapse Photography of Stars at Night

Where to Stargaze

All I can say is that you want to get as high as you can.  If driving up a little ways or hiking to some high lands is not an option, consider using the roof of your house.

Try to get away from light pollution which is usually found around cities.  Going "up north" is a big thing where I live, and my grandpa's tree farm is hands down the best place to stargaze.  There is not another house for miles and miles.  Gotta watch out for bears though...

I also live around a whole bunch of lakes, and I find it super easy to see the stars out on a boat on the lake, or even from the dock.  Just be careful for other boats, since most lakes require you to have lights on so you don't get run down by speed boats.  These lights will screw up your ability to see the stars, so if your lake is busy at all, I would recommend laying on the dock instead.  This is also true for going out on the ocean, though I'm not as familiar with night-time-ocean-endeavors, and just by the sound of that it seems wiser to stick near land.

astronomy, cosmos, crater lake national park

How to Stargaze

Locate the local constellations and important astronomical features like the ISS (International Space Station) and Northern Star.  AstroViewer can help, and there are lots of apps and programs you can use and manipulate in real time to locate the constellations in your area.  The following are very popular constellations you can try to look for, depending on the season:
  • Aquarius
  • Aquila
  • Aries
  • Canis Major
  • Cygnus (also known as the Northern Cross) 
  • Leo
  • Orion
  • Scorpius
My favorite constellation to find is Orion because Orion's belt is very easy to find and it's a beautiful constellation.

Look for planets as you stargaze as well.  If an object is twinkling and blinking, it's most likely a star.  If the object is very steady, it's probably a planet.  Be careful you aren't getting confused by any planes or towers!

Stars at Night

Moon Gazing

Sometimes the stars are not out or are difficult to see.  Moon gazing is great for city folk because the moon is obviously a lot brighter and plainer to see.  On nights where the moon is full, it can sometimes drown out the light of other stars, and may be stealing the show.  Might as well give the moon the spotlight on those nights, and take part in some moon gazing.

You can use binoculars or even the naked eye to find the craters on the moon.  The best times to do this is when the moon is a waxing or waning crescent or gibbous.  It can be done on full moon nights, but it is harder to see because it's so bright.

Make sure to keep up to date on interesting moon phenomenon in your area like super moons, harvest moons, blue moons, blood moons, and eclipses.  

One of my favorite things to see is partial eclipses, where the corona, or shadow of the Earth, is visible on the moon.

Phases of Moon Photo

Other Notes

If you are using a phone or other device for a star chart, or to locate the ISS, cover your screen with red paper in order to reduce the amount of blue and white light your eyes are taking in.  This can mess with your ability to see the stars clearly, and it's important your eyes are not being confused.

Visit a planetarium before you stargaze in order to get familiar with locating constellations in the sky, and ask about the formations you can see in your area.  A lot of planetariums actually have convenient guides that lay out where the stars are and at what seasonal periods they are visible.

Check around your area to see if your parks department hosts any stargazing sessions or classes so you can learn from the experts first hand how you can get the most out of your stargazing experience.

Remember that you don't have to always be super scientific about your stargazing.  If you just want an hour to relax, lay low, and pop in some ear buds (*cough cough* Interstellar soundtrack *cough cough*), then go for it.  Especially if you are just starting to stargaze, this can be an effective way to get yourself attracted to the idea before you spend a lot of time doing the more technical parts.

Remember to enjoy stargazing, and invite some pals to go with you.  It's stellar!

Shooting Star during Nighttime With Purple Sky