My Favorite Things

I’ve been away for a while, being at camp, canoeing on the Buffalo River in Arkansas, an Engineering camp. Actually, now, I’m in Hawaii for family vacation, but I have internet!

Anyway, for a long time, I have kept a list of my top five favorites in my head. When first learning about the concept, a friend’s brother began naming important things like ‘oxygen’, ‘shelter’, ‘water’, but that’s not what this list is. This is a list of favorites: things that I muchly prefer over other things. Since I restrict myself to five, it’s been refined over the months I’ve kept it. So, without further ado, and in no particular order…my list.

  1. Sleep. I adore sleeping. It’s not that I dream, because most often, I don’t. (The ‘D’ is sticking, so sorry about any typos. I’m trying to catch them.) And it’s not that I can lay down and instantly fall asleep, because I can’t. It’s that I crave sleep for most of my waking hours. There’s actually something wrong with my brain, apparently. It goes into REM sleep mode while awake. Thus, I’m always tired. But more than that, I enjoy sleeping. It’s relaxing and it’s ‘me’ time. This goes way back to when I was much younger. If I faked being asleep, I didn’t have to help unload the car after trips, got to sleep longer, and occassionally, overheard conversations between my parents and older brother.
  2. Food. So, food is a necessity in life. You don’t eat, you die. But when I say food is my favorite, I’m talking about the nicer kinds of food. Seafood is probably one of my favorite foods. I really appreciate a well prepared piece of fish. And, though I’ve never ‘gone hungry’, I’ve gone without good food enough times to realize that food makes life more enjoyable.
  3. Air Conditioning. It’s hot where I live. Really hot. And though the temperature may not get above 100 degrees very often, the heat index because of humidity regulary makes it feel like 115. A girl from Ecuador once told me that Atlanta was extremely hot compared to her country. So, air conditioning to alleviate the heat is my favorite. But why not central heating? It can get cold in Alabama. Just this past year, we got out of school for a week because of a huge snowstorm. It was freezing. But in the cold, you can always put more clothes on, huddle with people, drink hot chocolate. The cold gets in your bones, but the heat gets in your lungs. It’s oppressive. I prefer air conditioning.
  4. God. This is why I said ‘no particular order’. When I list my 5 favorites, He always is 4th, but really He’s first. God is pretty awesome. He created all things, and I’ve traveled to Hawaii and seen the beautiful scenery that He created out of love for us. Plus, there’s the added bonus of having all my sins forgiven through Him and being assured of my eternity. Honestly though, trusting in Him was the best thing I ever did and that’s why He’s my favorite.
  5. Running Water. Okay, so this is a bit of a cop-out. It started out as ‘Current’ meaning on a river. I paddled 59 miles on the Buffalo River and around 56 miles of it was basically stagnant lakes. 1 miles was upriver, and there was plenty of current there, but that’s beside the point. We would paddle 3/4 miles of a lake in the hot sun and come across a bend in the river with maybe 50 yards of ‘current’. It made the trip worth it. But, running water also covers flushing toilets and showers. Sinks too, I suppose. We planned our trip so we could stop most nights at designated campsites which came with trashcans and permanant porta poties. But the bathroom were actually worse than going in the woods. Then, after the last day, we went to legit campground with bathhouses to shower before heading back to Alabama. They ha actual showers! and flushing toilets! Best shower of my life. And so, running water is my favorite.

For a long time, Coke, as in Coka-Cola, was on my list. But since last Thanksgiving, I have had 9 Cokes. I still crave the carbonation, but I’m (mostly) off sodas. Therefore, Coke is off my list.

Do you have ‘favorites’?

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

So, who in the world isn’t going to see this movie?

I saw the midnight showing last night at 12:01 (cause I’m a cool kid) and it was AMAZING! I had a phenomenal time with some friends, and the movie was totally worth the 11 hours we waited at the theatre. It didn’t follow the book after the escape from Gringotts, but I was alright with it. The way they made it was totally amazing. It was shockingly funny, actually, and also included the most awkward hug in cinematic history.

It’s a bit bitter-sweet, though, because the end of Harry Potter is like saying goodbye to my childhood. I grew up with Harry, and he with me. I cried a little to say goodbye to all that, but I know that Harry Potter has made me into a person I may not have been without it, and as long as I keep his memory alive, he’ll never really be gone. Harry will always live in the hearts of everyone his story has touched.

Also, listen to the band Ministry of Magic! They are AWESOME!

SPOILER ALERT!

I loved how the final battle between Harry and Voldemort took place throughout the castle, instead of just bam, bam, dead. I cried so much, though! I didn’t think I’d cry when Snape died, but I just kinda did. Then, in his memories, when he was hugging Lily’s dead body I just lost it. I was sobbing in a sold-out movie theatre, and I didn’t even care. Then, I just kind of consistently cried until the end. We all erupted into applause when Ms. Weasley killed Bellatrix, as the situation deserved.

So much more to say, but to say all I desire would take far too long. Go see it, you’ll understand.

Till next post,

Madalyn

Long live Harry Potter!

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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Places Without Mutant Squirrels

I return to BLA! I know you all missed me so much. I was gone at camp for two weeks! JH Ranch in Northern California, to be exact.

Let me tell you a few things about JH Ranch:

1) It is absolutely beautiful.

2) You have to climb almost vertical mountains with a 60 pound backpack.

I think that’s a long enough list! Let’s get a picture of the gorgeous scenery…

Big Top at JH Ranch, California

Now isn’t that just lovely? It really did look like that! It was sooooo beautiful. I had a great time, don’t get me wrong, but let me tell you something about Northern California. At least, where we were. We were about 3,800 feet in the air. Know what that means? Thin air. Know what that means for us unfit people? Huffin’ and puffin’. A lot. To get anywhere at JH Ranch that isn’t another camper cabin, you have to go uphill, at least a little. To get to meals, it’s a very big hill. That is also very steep.

Once again, don’t get me wrong. I did have fun. Lots of fun. One thing though, we had to go backpacking into the mountains. A mountain that was about 8,000 feet high. Even thinner air. It was fun, looking back on it, but during the actual backpacking it was quite hard. I am not a fit person. Also, as my title suggests, the squirrels were HUGE! And there were bears! And mountain lions! And we were camping with them! I was so scared I was going to get eaten…

Well, that’s where I’ve been for the past two weeks! Look it up, because it’s soooo much fun! Like I said!

Till next post,

Madalyn

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House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski was a strange book. A very strange book. It’s been on my list, so I checked the library and it was out. Placed a hold, and two weeks later it came it. While waiting, I read another book by MZD, so I was expecting something strange. And it fulfilled my expectations.

I can’t find the cover blurb because of the massive cult following this book has, and I don’t feel like typing it in.

Let me try to explain what this book is about.

Will Navidson, Karen Green, and their two children buy and move into a house in Virginia. Because Will is a world-renown photojournalist, he’s been away a lot, but has agreed to settle down. In fact, he’s going to film their settling down. These films are eventually compiled into The Navidson Record, a documentary about the house. More on that later. Then, this guy named Zampano begins to write a book examining the meaning of the documentary and the quality of the shots and the relationships of the characters, etc. Zampano is never in the actual book, just the book he was writing about the movie. Then this other guy named Johnny Truant ends up with the (unfinished) manuscript and starts compiling it. To quote TvTropes, “It’s a book about a book about a film about a house that is a labyrinth.”

The actual physical copy of the book that you or I read is composed of Zampano’s book with copious amounts of footnotes. Many of those footnotes are Johnny’s comments and eventually, his journal. Also interspersed, but still officially part of Zampano’s manuscript, are transcripts of parts of the movie. Half or more of the books Zampano references don’t exist. Another large chunk of footnotes is devoted to translating all the bits of French, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, I don’t even know what else, that is throughout the text.

Later in the book, the shape of the text begins to reflect what the words are describing. Dripping across the page. Being mirrored. Sideways. Struckout. Upside down. The word ‘house‘ is always blue and often sub-scripted just a bit.

The quote earlier mentioned a labyrinth. I’m going to go back and try to tell the story of The Navidson Record first to explain that. Will and Karen buy a house. A while later, they take the kids to go visit grandma. When they return, there’s a sort of closet-like space between the master bedroom and the kids’ room where before there had only been a wall. Additionally, and far more importantly, there is now a door in the middle of the living room wall that opens onto a cold (nearly freezing temperatures), dark hallway to nowhere. The two windows on either side of the door open onto the back yard and it is indeed possible to walk out one window and in the other, crossing where the dark hallway SHOULD be. But it’s not. Then, Will measures the house. And it’s 1/4 inch bigger on the inside than on the outside. Repeatedly. This definitely made me think of the Tardis from Doctor Who, but I haven’t seen that comment anywhere else. The rest of the movie documents, though wall mounted cameras, hand-held cameras, and voice recorders, the 6 ‘expeditions’ into that hallway as well as the reactions of those involved. To not give anything away, I’m going to stop there.

So, we have Johnny writing about his life and a book by Zampano that was written about a movie by Navidson about a house. And that doesn’t even bring the appendixes into it! There are 3? but they’re mostly incomplete. And there’s an index. That’s also incomplete. Or completely wrong in several cases.

My reaction? I’ve seen places where it took people a long time to read it because of the page number (709). But that’s garbage, because a good many pages have less words than this paragraph.

I read it in a day. Of course, I was at the doctor’s office all day, waiting for 90 minutes at a time, 5 times.

I really liked it. My favorite character was Tom Navidson, Will’s twin brother. Zampano discussed the Jacob and Esau story and which Navidson brother was which. I’d have to say Tom was Esau because Jacob/Will was the deceiver, and Esau got the raw end of the deal. I also really liked the character of Johnny Truant. He’s on all kinds of drugs and drinks all the time and parties out the wazoo (That word was in the dictionary!), but he’s also simply a product of his upbringing. And he’s unexpectedly educated.  Some letters from his mother who’s in an asylum show that he got into some nice private schools on scholarship. Despite his random drug-induced hallucinations, he’s able to make intelligent literary references. Made me happy.

I don’t see how it’s a love story at all, though. Horror, definitely. Coming of age, possibly. But not love.

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Johnny and the Bomb

The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy by Terry Pratchett consists of three books: Only You Can Save Mankind, which I’ve never read; Johnny and the Dead, which I enjoyed; and Johnny and the Bomb, which almost made my head hurt.

“Twelve-year-old Johnny Maxwell has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This has never been more true than when he finds himself in his hometown on May 21, 1941, over forty years before his birth!

An accidental time traveler, Johnny knows his history. He knows England is at war, and he knows that on this day German bombs will fall on the town. It happened. It’s history. And as Johnny and his friends quickly discover, tampering with history can have unpredictable–and drastic–effects on the future.

But letting history take its course means letting people die. What if Johnny warns someone and changes history? What will happen to the future? If Johnny uses his knowledge to save innocent lives by being in the right place at the right time, is he doing the right thing?

Mixing nail-biting suspense with outrageous humor, Terry Pratchett explores a classic time-travel paradox in Johnny Maxwell’s third adventure.”

This isn’t one of the Discworld novels, so I wasn’t as much of a fan of it as usual with Terry Pratchett’s books but it was still good. I enjoyed the characters. It was strange because they seemed younger than I expected. I guess that I don’t read many books with 13-16 year-olds as the main characters. It was strange because it’s more English than most of his other books, but still accessible to us lowly Americans.

The time travel portion of the book bothered me. Not the actual time travel, but the discussion of consequences and effects and methods. It wasn’t technical or anything, but any discussion of time travel gets into the complicated region. It requires thinking about things sideways.

Because it involved life or death situations, Johnny and the Bomb was a lot more serious than his other books, and even than the other Johnny Maxwell books. Ending gasp factor is a 3/10 because it’s not suspenseful at all, and isn’t supposed to be.

245 pages.

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My Life Happens

Hey, y’all, I’m Sara. Yes, I said y’all. I’m allowed to because I am from the beautiful state of Alabama. Actually, perhaps the ‘boiling’ state of Alabama would be better right now because it is SO FREAKING HOT. Sorry, but it is. And the air conditioner in my car, my beautiful car, is broken. So, windows down for at least another week till we can get it fixed.

My life is pretty simple. I’m in band; I play the clarinet. During football season, that mostly consumes my life. The rest of the time, I’m known as one of the smarter kids in my grade. I’ll be super busy with school work this year, but I can get through. Books and friends are the other two aspects of my life. I read anything I can get my hands on and always have. When I was little, my dad would read books to me and my brother and the first book I remember is the Great Illustrated Classic of Moby-Dick.

Friends are different than books though. They have other plans and can occasionally spill drinks on you. Madalyn is one of my best friends. She’s in my phone as ‘Secret Agent’, but that’s a story for another time.

Oh, and I’m an optimist. Very muchly so. Well, I don’t always see the best in people, but in every situation. It can only get so bad, then it’s got to at least level out. Luckily, I’ve never been down quite that far yet in life. But I’ll be okay.

And finally, I’m left-handed.

Farewell for now, Sara

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The Wayfarer Redemption

The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass is one of my favorite books. I originally picked it up to read it because of the author’s name. It’s rare to see ‘Sarah’ spelled ‘Sara’. It is the first book of a six-book series, or the first of a three book series that is followed by another three book series, depending on whether you are from America or Australia. Douglass is Australian. In Australia, the book is actually called something different, BattleAxe, I believe.

“A millennia-old prophecy was given when the Forbidden Ones were driven from Achar. And now, the Acharites witness its manifestation: Achar is under attack by an evil lord from the North, Gorgreal-his ice demons strike from the sky and kill hundreds of brave warriors in the blink of an eye.

All Acharites believe the end is near.

One young woman, Faraday, betrothed of Duke Borneheld, learns that all she has been told about her people’s history is untrue. While fleeing to safety from the dangerous land, Faraday rides with Axis, legendary leader of the Axe-Wielders and hated half-brother of Borneheld-and a man Faraday secretly loves although it would be death to admit it.

This grand and heroic story tells the tale of one woman’s plight to learn the truth of her people and change their hearts and their minds forever. She fights against oppressive forces to share this reality and will not desist until everyone knows. . . . . The truth of the Star Gate”

Does that sound like Faraday is the main character? I’ve read the book twice, a long time ago and yesterday, and she never seems the main character. Maybe it’s because I just so prefer Axis.

Basically, there’s this Prophecy. The StarMan will be born at some point and he will be the half-brother of Gorgreal who will be half Avar and half Icarii. Those are the names of the two races of Forbidden. Gorgreal will seek to destroy the world, in typical evil villain fashion (he had a bad upbringing) while the StarMan tries to stop him. The only problem is, no one knows who the StarMan is.

The reader finds this out as Axis, BattleAxe of the Axe-Wielders, does. The Axe-Wielders are the military arm of the big religious body of the country. He travels around part of the country in the beginning of the book discovering the prophecy and with him travels Faraday. Faraday is betrothed to Axis’s half-brother Borneheld (they shared a mother who died birthing Axis). The brothers hate each other, understandable. Then, Faraday ends up with a role in the prophecy! Then, this other girl named Azhure gets involved unwillingly, but she isn’t part of the prophecy, I don’t think.

I’m trying not to give things away, but it’s difficult.

There are basically three story lines happening at once: Axis’s quest north to help Borneheld not die; Faraday’s task of not letting Borneheld kill Axis; and Azhure’s journey to figure out what the heck is going on.

I recommend this book because, though it gets bad reviews sometimes, it’s entertaining and original. People complain because some names are taken from classical myths. Well, names have to come from somewhere. You definitely have to read the second and third because the story doesn’t end at all. It was nice to read it because I’d forgotten all the plot twists, but the bits I did remember apparently happened in the second book.

The gasp factor would be around a 6/10 because of events shortly before the end. Actually, I mentioned how it shows several people’s story lines, at one point near the end, each group throws a torch in the air at the same time. It was cool to read and notice that.

Madalyn has this book now, and I hope she’ll review it. Then we can have a different perspective on the plot. 433 pages.

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