As it became more entertaining to read, the story started to take some turns that seemed unbelievable, even for a story about a fictitious wizard school.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Happy Easter! Even though today is a holiday, it’s still a Sunday, which means it’s time to talk about something nerdy.

nerdy side

Maybe you don’t consider Harry Potter to be a nerdy indulgence. Well, when it comes to my interests, reading gets thrown into the same group as anime, video games and manga. It’s all a part of my nerdy obsession. The only real difference between Harry Potter and all those other things is that I really can’t call reading the book an indulgence. I’m sorry friends, but reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was more about completing what I started than the actual enjoyment of reading.

I was 13 when the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was first released. Just like that, everyone went nuts. It seemed like even people who hardly ever read picked up this book and fell in love. I wasn’t interested then and, frankly, I wasn’t much more interested when I recently picked up the book. Since this series has gone so far as to inspire a theme park, I thought I’d force my way through it. It has to get good at some point, right?

In full disclosure, I didn’t expect this book to be great. When I reread my favorite YA series as an adult, I found the first two books to be a bit simple. After that, the story gets darker and more complicated. Even though I probably would have never gotten into the series as an adult, the nostalgia keeps me going until the series gets good. That’s what I expect out of the Harry Potter series.

Reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was agonizing until about half-way through. I found the dialog and descriptions to be extremely bland. The names for many of the people, spells and places seemed unnecessarily silly to me. I’m sorry guys, it was just bad. I don’t understand how this book became an overnight sensation.

Half way through the book, around the time a troll made an unwelcome appearance at the school, descriptions started to get better. As it became more entertaining to read, the story started to take some turns that seemed unbelievable, even for a story about a fictitious wizard school.

Specifically, I did not like the little jaunt into the forbidden woods used as punishment for 11-year-olds. Really? That’s your punishment. Was the plan to scare the poor children away from the school or does the administration get some sick enjoyment out of telling families their child has died? I know that adventure was important for the plot to move forward, but I just could not get past the idea that this was a punishment. The school should have listened to Mr. Flitch and hung them from chains or something. At least then they would be in an enclosed space, safe from any risk to their lives.

The other thing I really didn’t care for was how Harry and Ron often thought of Hermione. Even after they became friends, it still felt like they looked down on her for taking such interests in her studies. In a way, this also worked well for me as the reader, because I connected with that side of Hermione.

If you’re wondering, yes, I would often get wrapped up in my studies. Yes, I have asked a teacher why they gave me an A- (if it’s not 100% than that means there’s room for me to improve). Yes, I have raised my hand after being given an assignment to write a report just to ask if there was a limit to how long the report could be. What can I say? College was my ticket out of my small town and college was my ticket to a career. These were not things I took lightly.

We’ve established that I’m a bit of a nerd, right? Right, moving on then…

If not for the insistence of a few friends and my own desire to see what all the fuss is about, I probably wouldn’t move on to the next book. I’m unimpressed. There is no need building within me to attend Hogwarts. No, I’d much rather attend St. Vladimir Academy.

There are six more books to go through before the end of the year. That’s six more chances J.K. Rowling has to turn me into a wizard fanatic. Here’s hoping the second book is at least a little better.

Harry potter

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Proof of success is in how tired I am at the end of the week.

Stream of Consciousness 005

I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday weekend. On Thursday, I found out I had Friday off, which was fantastic. I read a bunch of manga, finished the first Harry Potter book and completed chapter five of my novel (still in draft form being physically written into a note-book). I even cleaned a little. All in all, I count this week as a resounding success.

  • I miss my FitBit Force. I mean, it did start to cause a rash on my wrist, but I loved that thing.
  • Every once in a while, life seems to boring and I wonder what it would be like to be within an inch of my life. Also, I wonder what it would be like to be super hero strong. These are the motivations behind my recent endeavor to complete both the 30-Day Ab Challenge and Insanity.
  • I’m a glutton for punishment
  • I actually did a little bit of everything this week. I read. I wrote. I gamed. I even got some workouts in and made a cheesy rice and zucchini meal. I’d call that a successful week.
  • All I want out of life is to sleep

Proof of success is in how tired I am at the end of the week. The more exhausted I am, the more I probably got done. I am so thankful for the three-day weekend. I need to rest up if I’m going to do it all over again next week.

Either we are an extremely arrogant race of beings, or very blessed.

Accuracy of a Homeless Jesus

Maybe it’s because Easter Just around the corner, but I’ve done a lot of thinking about homeless Jesus.

Burnett, John. N.d. St. Alban’s Episcopal, Davidson, N.C. NPR. Web. 17 Apr. 2014. <http://www.npr.org/2014/04/13/302019921/statue-of-a-homeless-jesus-startles-a-wealthy-community>.

While I may not be the biggest fan of Christianity, I do admire Jesus. When I first saw this image, I was taken aback. Clearly I wasn’t the only  one. A person called the police thinking this was a real person and others have called the statue creepy. The more I look at the above image, though, the more right it feels.

Who is Jesus to us today? Some may claim he is a stranger as more and more people turn away from organized religion. I, however, have met atheists and agnostics who seem to have far more respect for Jesus than most Christians seem to show. They are so distracted by the false idol of religion, that they neglect the  Divine spiritual relationship they should be prioritizing. While atheists may not believe in any spiritual reality, I’ve met many who have a high regard for Jesus, the person and the revolutionary.

Looking at this statute, I am reminded of the kinds of people Jesus embraced and the kind he rejected. Disgusted by the political and religious leaders of his time, he spent his time with the lowlifes and cast outs.

He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone.”

We don’t hear the stories of every person Jesus encountered. Did every prostitute who spoke to him cease his/her business at his word? Did every thief move on to an honorable life and every murderer turn him/herself in?  I’d bet that answer is no and I’d also bet Jesus and any God worth worshiping loved them no less.

Love is God and Love does not require complete perfection to exist. Human love has limits. For example, the parents of a mass murderer may no longer have the ability to love their child. Divinity is different. As God is limitless, so is Love (you know, because God is Love). Of all the horrendous deeds committed by humanity, somehow we still feel the love of Divinity. Either we are an extremely arrogant race of beings, or very blessed.

If we look at most world religions, we find there is a commonality in trying to be good, moral people. At their heart, they attempt to provide a blueprint towards peace. Part of that requires us to accept those who are different and treat them with kindness. Yet, there is so much hate in this world. Christianity isn’t alone in the way it too often looks down upon those who act or believe differently. Many other religions do the same. You needn’t look farther than Americans fear/hate of Muslims (and probably vice versa) to see that.

When I studied abroad in Northern Ireland, I was amazed to see religion used as a tool for conflict. Fighting between Protestants and Catholics isn’t new to the European continent, but this is the 21st century. I thought for sure most of that was in the past. The frequent bomb threats I heard about and the ugly look people sometimes gave me if they found out I came from a Catholic family told me otherwise.

These conflicts between religions are more complicated and often more political in nature. Still, religion seems to insist on involving itself with politics. What happened, in America, to freedom and equality for all? Obviously we don’t have complete freedom of religion, because I have been in a number of churches which observer equal marriage (or gay marriage if you must call it that), but their marriages aren’t recognized around the world.

When we see the above image of Jesus, we see him as a poor man in need of help but we can’t see his face. What if we could lift his blanket and look upon his face? What would you do if his complexion was Middle Eastern or Black? What if he told you he had prostituted himself for drugs the other night? What if he told you he took his girlfriend to have an abortion the other week? Would you drop the blanket in disgust and walk away, or would you still try to help him.

None of us are perfect. Not one of us have a perfect moral or view of the world. We can’t all understand why someone would do things we find horribly wrong. Does that mean we should hate them? What good does that do to turn away from someone in their time of need, regardless of their past? Do we think we are somehow above others because of our ethnicity, because we avoided pregnancy before marriage or because we never sought drugs for comfort?  Do we see ourselves as living the ‘right’ lifestyle and condemn others who live differently? That will do the world no good. Hate and haughtiness will only destroy us.

Who ever created that statue is a genius because it makes us really think about who Jesus is today. He is the poor, sick and  lonely. He is every person you ever condemned. He is in the people whose rights are taken away by misguided politicians. Maybe this statute will help people see that and cause them to think twice before they spread hate.

What do you think of this statue? Do you think it is a good representation? Do you think being in a wealthy community gives this statue any more or less impact?

My muses are nerds.

Mysteries of Motivation

What motivates us? I suppose the answer depends on what we are doing. In general, I assume most people are motivated to do the basic things in life because of their family, friends or partners. Some of us are motivated to go to work because we love it; most of us go because we need the money.

Beyond the general, everyday life, what motivates us? The other day, I saw a story on the news about a girl who’s not even out of high school yet who has written a book and has a movie deal. Once upon a time, the ‘Amazon Warehouse’ was little more than a garage and now they compete with. Now, they are a major competitor of almost ever business. Amazon is the Wal-Mart of the internet. Where

Lately, I’ve wondered if the motivation that causes people to go above and beyond is different from the motivation that gets us out of bed every morning. I imagine it has to be different, because these motivations work against each other. For example, I am motivated to earn money so I can go out with my boyfriend without relying on him to pay for everything. In short, part of my motivation is to spend time with the people I love.

The motivation that drives me to write this blog and work on my novel is the exact opposite. These aren’t activities that make me money and they certainly don’t make life easier. On top of it all, they require me to sacrifice time I could be spending with friends or with my boyfriend.

Perhaps that’s the reason we stand in awe of people who manage to accomplish these huge dreams. The sacrificial motivation they needed to get there required them to sacrifice time with precious people. Working against every day motivation, they worked without pay, without guarantee of success and they succeeded.

I can’t help but be jealous of those people. How did they accomplish such a feat? Didn’t they have to buy groceries or do laundry? Did they simply get used to living in disarray. You need only to ask my parents to know I am no stranger to a messy room, but certainly there’s a limit.

Through a few Twitter conversations, I’ve found I’m not the only one with questions about sacrificial motivation. More specifically, I’m not the only one with a huge amount of interests bidding for my attention.

As I’ve moved into adulthood, I’ve made friends who demand my attention (and I love them all). Gone are the days where I hung out with these friends in a classroom five days a week. Gone  the weekends where I am left alone. I don’t know what they see, but I’m apparently in high demand. It’s fantastic to be wanted, but it means most  of my solo hobbies fall off my radar. In fact, for a long period of time, I didn’t engage in a single one of my hobbies.

When I finally decided to give this book writing thing a shot, I discovered my muses were lost. As I sought out inspiration, I found my muses were simple, greedy beings. They lived within my book shelf and video game consoles.

This photo, “La danza d’Apollo con le Muse – Guilo Romano – Stengel” is copyright (c) 2014 Lynn and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

My muses are nerds. As I rediscovered each one of them, I realized they were each an essential part of my writing process. My pen could not move without them.

This year has been an exercise in balance as much as motivation. I cannot do everything every day. For a while, this plagued me. Weeks went by between writing sessions. Months went by with no more than one book being read. I made myself sick with exhaustion trying to fit it all in. This week has been particularly tiring, and yet I feel like I’m finally finding my balance.

Perhaps there is a day in my future where, having mastered sacrificial motivation, I will be the one making other dreamer jealous.

Do you think there is a difference between typical motivation and the kind of motivation that requires sacrifice?

I was incomplete because I was a mystery to myself.

The First Step in Finding Yourself is Understanding

It’s Wednesday, which means we are continuing the journey into young TK’s mind and how she came to understand herself. While today’s poem was not written with a name (I’ll give it one here), it is one of my better ones. Written on April 26th, 2004, when I was 14-years-old, this poem marks a very important step in my overall view of myself.

Understanding

Inside, I feel incomplete.

There is something missing.

There us a closed door in need of opening.

There is a person I have yet to meet.

There is a place I have let to see.

So many paths,

Sine right, and

so many wrong.

Which one is right for me?

Which one will lead me to success?

Which one will lead me to failure?

If I stay where I am, will I ever be satisfied?

Inside I am lonely.

Inside I am crowded.

Inside I understand.

Inside I know nothing.

Somewhere inside I am hiding.

Waiting for me to find me.

I am found and I am lost.

How am I to sort this all out?


 

Perhaps it seems odd to call this poem ‘Understanding.’ The author seems to be facing a great amount of confusion. Since I am an older and wiser version of this little writer, I can tell you that is not the case. What this poem really shows is how young TK was starting to recognize the contradictions in her life. My life was fully of people who cared, and yet I felt lonely. I knew and possessed so much, and yet I felt like I had nothing. These contradictions did not make sense to me, but I knew them for the mystery they were.

I was incomplete because I was a mystery to myself. Up until this point in my life, I followed others. Whatever my parents and teachers told me I should be, is what I strives to become. Through this poem, we see the beginnings of change in that drive. Notice the following sentence.

Which one is right for me?

20140415_192820

In discussing what path I should take in life,I did not simply ask which was right and which was wrong, as if trying to decipher a moral code handed down by the adults in my life. This was different. I was asking myself which paths were right or wrong for me. Just because a person found success down one path did not mean I would also find success there. Just because one person found something to be wrong for them, did not mean it would also be wrong for me.

Just like that, I started to think about where my own dreams could be found. While I hadn’t figured everything out, yet, I was beginning to understand that my dreams might not line up with the dreams others had for me. That realization would prove to be a double edged sword. Finding myself would prove joyous, but realizing my dreams didn’t fit with what everyone wanted would bring considerable sadness.

Years would pass before I understood I didn’t have to live up to everyone else’s dreams for me in order to be happy.

What saddens me most about these events is that the children involved were probably not educated on the seriousness of their actions.

Underage Sexting Scandals and Law

Do children understand the meaning of consent, pornography and laws related to these topics? Perhaps the very idea seems outlandish, as these are just children, however, recent news in Chicagoland seems to indicate a need for some form of education to those children upon entering middle school.

Early last week, a sexting scandal involving a small group of eighth graders at a suburban middle school was brought to light. This event involved images which were ‘unknowingly redistributed’ among other students. A few days later, another sexting scandal broke out at a different middle school, this one involving sixth graders.

During one morning last week, I heard the term ‘distribution of child pornography’ used in reference to the eighth graders. Children are not above the law, and, depending on where the investigation leads, some may face such charges.

What saddens me most about these events is that the children involved were probably not educated on the seriousness of their actions. When I was in middle school, bullies used various words and actions that were uncomfortably lewd against me. In seventh grade, I remember the words ‘sexual harassment’ coming out of my parents mouth as they tried to figure out if there was anything they could do.

Using sexual terminology for bullying purposes is nothing new. Even so, bullies are just children. They don’t completely understand the damage they do. Much of the effort to stop bullying involves trying to build that understanding so children know their actions are wrong and have consequences. Perhaps that effort needs to be expanded to include the differences between bullying, sexual harassment and distribution of pornography.

This photo, “Pro Juventute – Stopp Cyber-Mobbing Kampagne © Pro Juventute_15” is copyright (c) 2014 Pro Juventute and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

The idea that we should be discussing sexual topics with children who are 10 years old is unnerving. Then again, I have a high school friend who lost her virginity before the eighth grade. These things happen. Yes, maybe they shouldn’t happen at such a young age. Maybe broken families contribute to that kind of behavior. However, these events are going to happen, and the children involved, regardless of their home life, deserve the chance to protect themselves with knowledge.

The problem is, I’m not really sure what to suggest. What kind of education should be provided? These issues get very close to grey areas society has yet to figure out. For example, many states have laws making it illegal to have sex under a certain age. For arguments sake, let say the age is 16. What happens in the event two 15-year-olds have consensual sex? Technically, they are both breaking the law. Should we prosecute them both?

I don’t have the answers to these questions and I don’t think the law has answers either. When it comes to things like sexting and the distribution of lewd images, where is the line? It has become common for adults to exchange naked photos of each other and to sext back and forth. This is all consensual and legal. If we change the situation so those people are underage and legally unable to consent, what then?

This is where I am left puzzled. I already think we should include consent education (defining what is and isn’t consent) in sex education.  Should we also be teaching earlier? Perhaps more pressing, how do you explain to a 10-year-old or 13-year-old that, even though they have a phone, and even though they can, of their own free will, take a photo of themselves naked and distribute it, that they also can’t consent to that photo being taken and/or distributed and are breaking the law by doing so?

I’m at odds here, with more questions than answers. The question I really want to ask is hard to even type, but I’m going to ask anyway. I’m wondering if there is some form of consent a child has. Could we say it is legal (note that legal does not mean right) for two consenting children to engage in such activities? I immediately want to say no, because I see a 14-year-old taking advantage of a five-year-old as something that should be clearly defined as an illegal act. Yet, being taken advantage of implies that consent was not given my the five-year-old, right?

I know this is all ridiculous. Consent and children; what is the world coming to? The actions of these children are disgustingly wrong. However,  I’m hesitant to place a child who took their own photo and choose to distribute that photo in a in the same group as child pornography distributors. Even if these photos ended up being used as a bullying tactic, is that really equal to the distribution of child pornography. What happens when a child is charged with such a heavy transgression? Certainly there is a difference between a child who didn’t understand what they were doing and a sexual deviant.

Instigram is why we are vain, Twitter is why we have short attention spans and Facebook is why we don’t connect with friends beyond out computer screen.

Social Media’s Illusion of Socialization

Recent conversations about friendship in adulthood have caused me to think a lot more critically about social media. Society’s scapegoat, social media seems to be the source of most of our problems. Instagram is why we are vain, Twitter is why we have short attention spans and Facebook is why we don’t connect with friends beyond out computer screen. I pondered this all weekend, and it just seemed like too simple of an answer. Social media has already proven to have a huge effect on us that isn’t always negative. When it comes to connection, we need to do more than point fingers. We need to ask, what is it about social media like Facebook that causes disconnect?

It seems to me that, among all the social media I listed, Facebook is really the only one that involves people I see in real life. In fact, Facebook is unique in that most people will only befriend people they know. While I may follow some of those same people on other social media platforms, I have no qualms about following complete strangers outside of Facebook. As such, when it comes to the effects of social media on how we make and maintain friendships, Facebook seems to be the obvious target of discussion.

Making friends in adulthood has always been hard. Through my own blogging experience, I’ve found most people made friends at work or through their neighbors. What happens if you simply can’t connect on an intimate enough of a level with coworkers or if you move so frequently that you never get the chance to know your neighbors?

This issue is similar to the problem of single people who are looking for a relationship. Those are pretty limited options for finding friends or lovers. No wonder online dating took off. MeetUp.com, a social site for meeting friends in real life, has done wonders for my friendship needs. I take this as a sign that social media, as a whole, is not the enemy of friendship. In fact, I wonder if the problem has to do with how the world revolves around Facebook.

Many of my high school friends have moved away from the small Iowa town I grew up in. Most of my college friends have moved away to new universities or jobs. I don’t live close to the handful that are still in that college town as I have also moved away. How do I stay up to date on the lives of these friends?

When I was getting ready to study abroad, I helped my parents set up a Facebook account so they could see my adventures. My father hated the very concept, grumbling about how, if he wanted to talk to someone, he’d call them. Yet, as soon as he had made an account, an old friend found him and started to chat over Facebook messenger. My father was delighted to hear from someone who he hadn’t contacted for a long while. Why did this person choose Facebook to reach out to my father?

This photo, “Facebook” is copyright (c) 2014 MoneyBlogNewz and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

All of these questions have the same answer: Facebook. Facebook makes it easier to reach out to people. You can stay in pseudo contact with them by reading their profile and you can send a message without interrupting your day.  I’m sure most Facebook users have dabbed in the delicate art of Facebook stalking. Guilty of it myself, it is a great way to keep up with friends without actually contacting them. Other actions, like sending  a post card or calling someone on the phone, take more effort and more time. As we like to gravitate toward the easiest methods, is it any wonder people have chosen Facebook over other methods of communication?

In reality, calling these methods ‘communication’ is flawed. The action of Facebook stalking involves one person. The other has no idea someone is reading their profile. They have no way of knowing you are interested in their life. With a little more effort, you can choose to send a message on Facebook, an action so minimal it can be done while at work, making dinner or sitting on the toilet. Unlike a phone conversation, messenger conversations are easy to ignore or quickly abandon if something more pressing demands your attention.

Facebook is great, but, more than any other social media platform, it has an uncanny ability to create the illusion of socialization without actual communication. The funny thing is, we know it’s an illusion. I’ll be the first to admit I have Facebook stalked someone specifically because I didn’t want to call them (due to a falling out). There are people out there with whom we don’t want to communicate but who we are still curious about. What better place than Facebook to check in on them?

All weekend, I wondered about the popularity of Facebook and whether people are feeling disconnected because they unintentionally bought into the illusion of communication on Facebook. Do people move away from college and then spend months only communicating with old friends on Facebook? Perhaps making friends is not any more easier or harder than it once was. Maybe the real difference is that social media has made it easier to spend time involved with old friends, which takes away from time we should be spending getting to know our new neighbors. 

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“Everyone has talent. What's rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” ― Erica Jong

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