Thursday, December 29, 2011

100 Books in a Year

Call me crazy, but I'm going to do it. Reading 100 books in a year has become my new year's resolution. Hopefully (if time allows) I'll write up a short review of each of the books I read and post them here. Of course, I've told myself in the past that I will blog and it has never happened, so we'll see. Anyway, here is my list of 100 books if anyone is interested:

A Little Princess
Pride and Prejudice
Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring
Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers
Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King
Jane Eyre
Wuthering Heights
Gone with the Wind
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
War and Peace
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
The Wind in the Willows
The Grapes of Wrath
The Count of Monte Cristo
Golden Compass
Subtle Knife
Amber Spyglass
Robinson Crusoe
All Creatures Great and Small
All Things Bright and Beautiful
All Things Wise and Wonderful
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The Mortal Instruments - City of Bones
The Mortal Instruments - City of Ashes
The Mortal Instruments - City of Glass
The Mortal Instruments - City of Fallen Angels
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Anthem by Ayn Rand
Copper Sun by Sharron Draper
Growing Up Christian
Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
The Arabian Nights
Brave New World
Sense and Sensibility
Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey
Lady Susan by Jane Austen
Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe
The Hidden Hand
Leaves of Grass
David Copperfield
Treasure Island
Artemis Fowl
The Alchemist
The Iliad
The Aeneid
The Book Theif
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements
The Chosen One
A Song of Ice and Fire - A Game of Thrones
A Song of Ice and Fire - A Clash of Kings
A Song of Ice and Fire - A Storm of Swords
A Song of Ice and Fire - A Feast for Crows
A Song of Ice and Fire - A Dance with Dragons
A Song of Ice and Fire - The Winds of Winter
The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Divine Comedy by Dante
Vanity Fair
Redeeming Love
Paradise Lost
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Talented Mr Ripley
Das Kapital
The Kite Runner
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Crime and Punishment
The Idiot
The Picture of Dorian Grey
The Importance of Being Ernest
Born Free
Out of My Mind
Thirteen Reasons Why
The Lamplighter
The Adventures of Augie March
Absalom, Absalom!
On the Road
Lord of the Flies
Tender is the Night
Ethan Frome
Little Women
The Help
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
A Room with a View
Waiting for Godot
Water for Elephants
The Red Badge of Courage
The Death of the Heart
The Wonderful WIzard of Oz
War Horse
The Hearts of Horses
Pippi Longstocking
The Last of the Mohicans

Quote of the Day:
"Energy and persistence conquer all things." ~Benjamin Franklin

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Benefit of Understanding

Many schools teach foreign languages as a chance to widen one’s cultural knowledge. They teach languages such as Spanish, French and German because they are spoken in countries and will benefit the learner. But what about the classical languages – Latin and Greek? Very rarely is a school found that teaches these so called “dead languages”. Yet they are not as ‘dead’ as the world supposes. Winston Churchill once wrote in an autobiography “I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honor, and Greek as a treat.” The benefits of studying the classical languages of Latin and Greek are many.
Languages that are derived from Latin are known as the romance languages. This group includes languages such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and as many as twenty other lesser known languages. Over fifty thousand English words are derived from the Greek language, and as many from Latin. For this reason alone, the studying of the classical languages can be considered beneficial. As one who has studied Latin since the fifth grade, I can confidently state that my knowledge of the Latin language has aided me in the studies of other areas, especially in other languages.
Many may say that the studying of the classical languages is pointless. They may claim that since they are no longer spoken, they are no longer of any use. However, the opposite is true. Almost all of the languages spoken today have derived from the classical languages of Latin and Greek. As I stated before, modern languages such as Spanish and French came from the ancient Latin language. Both Latin and Greek contributed to the languages of German and Russian. With the knowledge of the classical languages come the ability to better understand the romance
languages, and therefore be able to learn and speak them easily.
The studying of the classical languages will also help keep the mind active and thinking in a different way. When having to translate from any language, an understanding of how the native speakers think is required. This forces the mind to think in a way in which it is not comfortable. It is often challenging to translate the classical languages, but the rewards of it are great. Being able to manipulate the mind into understanding different ways of thought process is helpful in not only merely broadening the mind, but exercising it as well.
The study of the classical languages aids in the understanding of the English grammar. Many people will ignore grammar when they speak or write. Sometimes they understand it so well that they no longer need to keep it in mind. When studying Latin or Greek, however, the only way to understand the idea the writer is trying to convey is to carefully evaluate their uses of grammar. If the different elements of the sentence are not observed correctly, the meaning of the passage can be obscured or misinterpreted. Deciphering Latin or Greek sentences can help one develop skills at recognizing patterns and analyzing language with almost a mathematical perspective. It is therefore beneficial to know grammar well, and through studying the classical languages one will develop a better understanding of the English grammar system.
Studying the classical languages gives one the benefit of understanding. Anybody can read a book that tells of the history of a culture that has died out centuries ago, but to actually read a firsthand account of that culture provides the reader with an entirely different experience. Instead of just being a history lesson told by a scholar, the reader himself becomes the scholar. Through the classical languages one can become part of history. No longer does one become a slave to the historians and translators, forced to rely on their interpretations. Instead, one can read it for himself and determine his own interpretation. The knowledge of the classical languages and ability to read manuscripts written in those languages removes any faulty prejudices or biased that are implemented by the translators.
As I have mentioned before, many people say that classical languages are dead languages. I disagree. They may be ‘dead’ in the sense that they are not spoken any more, but Latin and Greek are just as much alive as the modern languages, if not more so. Many do not realize that they use Latin and Greek in their own language. Countless words have been derived from the classical languages. Penelope Lively, and author of both children and adult fiction, once wrote “We are all walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse; we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard.” Latin and Greek live through the languages they have influenced. The languages themself may not be spoken anymore, but the classical languages have left a definite mark on culture.
Another common excuse for not wanting to study Latin or Greek is that they are not useful for future tasks. Again, I disagree. Latin students have proven to perform exceptionally well on tests such as the SAT and standardized tests. This is due to the fact that Latin increases the vocabulary of the student as well as increases the knowledge of grammar of the student. Between the years of 1997 and 2006, Latin students scored around 150 points higher than the average student on the verbal portion of the SAT. It is commonly known that higher scores open doors to scholarships for colleges. And again, the study of classical languages will make it much easier to learn the grammar and vocabulary of the modern romance languages. Latin and Greek are the key to the modern languages.
In conclusion, the studying of the classical languages in high school or college will increase the knowledge of the English vocabulary and the knowledge of English grammar, as well as the ability to learn other romantic languages. But the most important benefit of studying Latin and Greek is that it will provide an appreciation for the ancient cultures that cannot be found elsewhere.

Friday, November 4, 2011

People, I'm Finally Gonna Do It

I'm finally going to actually finish a novel. Ever heard of NaNoWriMo? Also known as National Novel Writing Month? Basically, the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That's right. 30 days. That's an average of 1,667 words per day. It is currently day 4, and I already have 11,677 words (not to brag or anything). Or, you could say it this way: I am 23.35% finished my novel. My novel. That's got a nice ring to it, doesn't it? My novel. Hehe.

So, in order to complete my novel in 30 days, I knew I had to sacrifice something. Of course, I had to be all over-achiever and give up Facebook AND tumblr. This has been harder than I thought. I have no means of distraction to procrastinate with. That was the intention behind it, though. And I guess that's why I'm blogging for the first time in months. Hehe, sorry about that... been a busy year, you know?

And here I am, procrastinating further when I should be writing. But hey, daylight savings is coming up. One more hour added to the day. Most people are going to use it for sleep. I might use it for noveling. Or sleeping, sleeping is nice, too.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Joys of Summer

School has finally, finally come to a close, and with that closure comes the beginning of those blissful three months of summer. Probably the most anticipated and appreciated months of the whole year, summer vacation holds a charm in everyone's eyes. For starters, no school. No stressing over finals or projects or papers. No waking up at insane hours of the morning to drive to school half awake. No lectures, no classes, no anything school related for a whole three months. Summer is trips to the beach, spending time with friends, days at the pool, sleeping in, long vacations, and relaxation.

In my family, summer is filled with daily activities and outings. Everyone is up and dressed by nine o'clock (I have yet to meet that requirement) and after the chores are complete, its off to a friend's pool, a park, the library, shopping or out to lunch. We have not yet had a day of staying at home. We are always busy. Yesterday we bought two hammocks and I manually drilled them into the posts below our deck. A few days ago we were at the library, signing up for the summer reading program, where I only have to read three books. I completed that requirement that day. I've swam in three of my friends' pools over the course of two days. I have been a very busy person.

Next week, I'm volunteering at Beachmont Christian day camp. After that, I will most likely be teaching riding camps almost every week. July 14th is my birthday party, along with the premier of Harry Potter 7 part 2 (insert girly squeal here). The week after that, I'm spending a week at St George Island in Florida with my cousins, aunt, uncle, parents, sister, and best friend Megan, who is currently serving in the Dominican Republic for ten days - pray for her!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week of summer, though I have gotten quite exhausted from all the running around I've been doing. Tonight is my friend's graduation party, Emily's dance recital and swing dancing.

Since it is now summer, and I therefore have an abundance of spare time, I am hoping that I will be posting more blog posts. The last few months of school are always the toughest, with AP exams and finals to prepare for. But with all that behind me, I am determined to become a religious blog-poster... hopefully.

Quote of the Day:
"I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I'm saying."
-Oscar Wilde

(^I got that feeling last night while reading my transcendentalism essay...)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

This is not a meaningful post... so don't feel obligated to read it.

I would like to give my sincere apology for my lack of blog posts. My life has been quite busy, and honestly I forgot I had a blog for a little while. I always come across this dilemma - I go weeks with no posts, so I always feel obliged to write about something thought provoking or intelligent. And then I always end up writing about something random that comes to my mind. Which is why this post shall be about my 'adventures' at Deep Creek Lake.

First of all, why is it call Deep Creek Lake? To me, it seemed like more of a river. But according to Evan, it was a creek, just made into a lake via dam for purposes that I now forget. Something unimportant, like real estate or one of those random things.

Anyway, the drive to Deep Creek Lake/river whatever was ... interesting ... Lets just say I would have rather walked than have listened to Justin Beiber then entire time (not a fan, can you tell?) The view was amazing from the top of the mountains, though my ears were popping like crazy. And then we were chased by ominous thunderstorm-looking clouds that we ran away from. But it ended up snowing when we stopped to eat in Annie's Kitchen, which apparently is the place were all the old folk go, like they look forward to it every week - "oh boy, tomorrow's Friday night - party at Annie's Kitchen!"

Our cabins were cute, wooden, small and had an air freshener that 'puffed' every five minutes. It also had a very steep driveway that made it near impossible to climb up when wearing shoes with no traction, such as TOMS. And fitting 20+ people into the 'main cabin' which isn't any bigger than the other cabins is interesting. And hot.

Being sick all weekend does not make it a very pleasurable experience. Thinking that you're going to die is not fun either. At least I brought my Tylenol (that also helped cure the headache cause by the singing of Beiber's so-called 'songs').

Sleeping through breakfast on the first day is not cool. How I slept through everyone in my cabin going through the getting-ready-for-the-day process is beyond me. Thankfully Aaron saved me some bacon.

I would not advise skiing when you had a fever the night before. Or skiing with your friends who are just learning to snowboard. You will spend the entire time helping them up only for them to fall again in a few yards. Eventually you will give up and leave them halfway down the slope to fend for themselves, hoping they don't mow over some poor five-year-old, so you can have a little freedom.

If you are ever in the Deep Creek Lake area, I would recommend Brenda's Pizzaria. The pizza are huge and one slice is bigger than my face. I couldn't finish half a slice.

When driving back to the cabins in the dark, watch out for the 'CAUTION - BUMP' sign. When going over said bump at 50 mph, you will get air. Also when driving in the dark and looking for a church to go to in the morning, do not mistake the 'Dunkard Brethren Church' for the 'Drunkard Brethren Church'.

On Sunday morning, the one day I could actually sleep in, of course I wake up early. And wait ever so patiently for the shower, but people kept butting in front of me. Then all of a sudden "We have to be out of the cabin by 10". Its 9:48. And your belongings are strewn about the floor, under the bunks, in the bathroom, kitchen and loft.

After hauling duffel bags and pillows out of semi-clean cabin and up to the vans, be carefull to not slip on the steep driveway. Because apparently it snowed again. And I, being smart and not wanting to listen to Beiber all the way back home, chose to ride in a van with four other guys. And Miss Laura. It was awesome. (no sarcasm there)

The Drunkard - I mean Dunkard Brethren Church is the size of my living room and has a total congregation of 8. It was most definitely an experience I will not forget.

Here's my favorite part - Swallow Falls. Climbing up and down stairs and cliffs covered in thick sheets of ice to the point where you could slide all the way down on your butt is tons of fun. I would definitely recommend it. The crazy kayakers going over the waterfall in 40 degree weather when the water is probably more like 20 degrees were quite interesting. And they roused quite an applause when they flipped all the way over. By the time we walked to Muddy Creek Falls, I was seriously questioning whether this little expedition was safe or not. Oh, did I mention someone knew somebody whose some relation fell and died here? Yeah, guess I forgot to mention that... Literally, on one side was a cliff covered in giant icicles and the other was a sheer drop to freezing rushing water.

The ride home was ... well, peaceful - to a degree. I actually approved of the guys' choice of music over the girls'. Which says something, because normally guys are all screamo Disturbed headache kind of stuff. We listened to Phantom, Pirates, Beach Boys, Beatles and Monty Python. And some of Gavin's music that I'd never heard of. And Aaron's Celtic awesomeness. Of course, after enduring their music, I had to make them listen to some Regina Spektor.

All in all, it was a great retreat with a great message on defending your faith. I absolutely loved our speaker, Tom something-or-other (I wish I could remember his name because I want to friend him on facebook!) He was brilliant. I will definitely always remember this retreat, from drunkard Quaker churches to ice slides to waterfalls.

Quote of the Day
'Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple'
~Dr. Seuss

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Power of Literature

This is actually a speech I should be presenting in rhetoric class tomorrow, if this so-called 'massive winter storm' holds off. So, here it goes... (and remember your British accents!!)

Storytelling has been a major part of culture since the beginning of humanity. Mankind was created to thrive on stories. As the world progressed, storytelling gradually shifted from oral to written. From Homer in the 9th century BC to Shakespeare in the late 1500s, the written word has flourished.

Today, mankind thrives on progress. Today, mankind takes pleasure in knowledge. How are we supposed to gain knowledge if we no longer value the written word?

Reading opens up the chance to take in knowledge. Books hold the potential to broaden our minds and learn about life.

One of my favorite quotes by author Janette Oke says “When you read you can have every adventure. In the pages of a book you can be anyone you ever dreamed of being… They can never tell you you’re too young to slay the dragon -- because it all happens right here, where it’s safe.”

When you open a book, the pages hold the possibility of escaping into an entirely different world. Reading allows you to momentarily escape the realities of life. Another one of my favorite quotes, by author Cornelia Funke, says "The world was a terrible place, cruel, pitiless, dark as a bad dream. Not a good place to live. Only in books could you find pity, comfort, happiness - and love. Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn't ask anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly."

Reading, in general, makes you smart. It improves analytical thinking, increases vocabulary, and improves memory and writing skills. If reading provides us with all of these things, then why are 44 million adults in the U.S. unable to read even a simple story to a child?

Fifty-six percent of young people say they read more than ten books a year, with middle school students reading the most. Ten books a year? Personally, I could read ten books a month!

Now, I know most of you cringe at reading any book over two hundred pages. I cannot personally say that I have ever felt that way, but trust me, I know plenty of people who have. I have a challenge for you- go to the library or book store and pick one piece of classical literature off the shelf to read in your spare time. I’m talking about Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Henry James, the Bronte sisters, C. S. Lewis or Jane Austen. Each and every one of those authors has left their mark in history through their works of literature. Now, wouldn’t you want to be able to brag about understanding the quality language of Jane Eyre, Macbeth, Wuthering Heights or A Tale of Two Cities instead of complaining about how boring and long it is? Nobody wants to hear you rant on about how Portrait of a Lady was a terribly long and drawn out book. That doesn’t make you sound smart. If anything, it makes you sound unappreciative of the great literature that you were privileged to read and inconsiderate of the person to whom you are ranting.

Reading good, classical literature in your middle and high school years can benefit you greatly in your future. It can improve your SAT scores, thus increasing your chance of getting accepted into a good college and, further in life, getting a good job.

Reading allows the imagination to wander. Reading keeps our imagination alive in a way that media cannot. When you read, the language and descriptions in the book give you enough information about the scene that you can let your imagination run free and fill in the tiny, minute details. Media such as television and movies give you little to no room to let your imagination take control. It is rapidly taking over the minds of America. Many people would rather watch a movie than read a few chapters of a book. Where will that leave us in a few years? Classic literature will become ancient literature; books will be a thing of the past. The way we’re headed, our best hope for literature in the future lies in the success of Nooks and Kindles.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people refer to teen novels and chick flicks as ‘literature’. Let’s take the Twilight Saga as an example. Basically, the series copies the same cliché idea of forbidden love but puts a ‘fantasy’ twist on it. I won’t go into details, but the four very long and drawn out books are about a boring, average girl trying to decide whether to fall in love with a sparkly vampire or a wolf-human hybrid with anger management problems. The books hold some kind of obsessive appeal and give girls a false view on men. They hold no truth, no good morals, unless you can pull good v. evil from ‘good vampires’ and/or ‘good werewolves’ versus ‘bad vampires’. If that is what people are calling literature these days, then I’d hate to see what they call literature in our children’s generation.

So, you see, reading truly is beneficial. Books are like portals into dream worlds- giving you the opportunity to escape from life and its hardships. Reading good, classical literature can improve your SAT scores and overall intelligence. It puts your imagination to work- and trust me, your imagination is one thing you don’t want to lose. But please, steer clear of the so called ‘literature’ the world is spitting out today. Pick up a copy of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories or one of the Narnia books and let your mind escape into the beautiful language of classic literature. Because, in the words of Mark Twain, “the man who will not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”

I think there are enough good quotes in the above speech, but here's one just for kicks:
Isn't is odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times? As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells... and then, when you look at the book many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower... both strange and familiar.
~Cornelia Funke

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nyctophobia, Pteronophobia, etc.

Now, I know that since I haven't posted in weeks that this post should be something meaningful or thought provoking. Well, that's not really the case. I just got home from my school's Renewing the Vision thing (basically, some people talked about stuff about our school. I wouldn't know the specifics because I was locked in a room with four year olds- but more on that later.) The Girls Ensemble sang The Precious Blood, and actually, I don't think my mother managed to video that one! That was at the beginning of the night. For the remaining hour and a half, while various people - including Katie - talked about their experience at New Covenant, I was assigned babysitting duty.

Imagine yourself in a small classroom along with around 15 children under the age of 5 and about 10 high-schoolers. Now, let your imagination run wild for a moment. I'm sure you can think up some pretty gruesome scenarios. What really happened was as follows:
- The tiny room quickly turned into a sauna. I'm fairly sure it was at least ninety degrees in there when we were finally released. We would have opened the windows, but opening them could have potentially set off the alarm, which would have been bad, considering there was a sanctuary full of people upstairs.
- Someone *cough Hannie* got the brilliant idea to play Simon Says, which is normally a decent game to play with scores of toddlers. You know, "Simon says jump up and down. Simon says stop." Now, this said someone also got the brilliant idea to say "Simon says jump on Josh!" This quickly turned into jumping on Dalvin and I as well, which quickly led to tickling me.

-- Fun Fact About Lila #46: Lila absolutely hates having her feet touched in any way. --

Yep, you guessed it. They tickled my feet. And I screamed. Many times.
- When faced with the challenge of putting a Clifford puzzle together, do not be alarmed when a two year old child who doesn't even know his own name totally destroys you and your puzzle skills. I find it amusing that six high-schoolers couldn't manage to put a floor-size puzzle together, but a two-year-old could.
- Creepy men who come in the the room about halfway through the night and take two children out with him are probably bad. It is also not good if said creepy men cannot be found after returning the children to the room three minutes later.
- Once we were finally released, we made a break for the fresh air. And the cookies.

After that torturous hour and a half of screaming, sweaty and adorable children, feel free to socialize. Just don't forget that all of your bags are in the nursery.

Here's what happened: Once realising that my bags, coat and shoes were still downstairs, I ran down the back staircase, only to find that there was no light switch on that end of the hallway. After hesitating briefly and contemplating what sort of vicious monster could be hiding in the dark hallway and dark classrooms (did I mention there is also a crawlspace in the church basement?), I bolt. I literally booked it down that hallway, eyes closed, until my outstretched hands hit a wall. I tried the nursery door. It was locked. SO, naturally, I would choose the closest stairway- the front stairs. And it figures there's no light switch at the bottom of those stairs as well. Now, if you know me well enough, you should know that Lila + dark stairs = disaster. Fortunately, I made it up the stairs in one piece. I ran to find our pastor for the keys. After taking a considerable amount of time fishing them out of his pocket, I run back down the front stairs- with the lights on, mind you- turn on the hallway light, and unlock the nursery door. I grab my bags, coat and put on my shoes. I know I have to go back up the back staircase because I left the light on. Then it hits me- since there is no hall light switch on the opposite side of the hallway, I was going to have to run back through the hall with all of my things in the dark. Oh, joy. (did I also mention at the end of the hall there was a door that led out to the back of the church?) I flicked off the light and sprinted down the dark hallway yet again, with only the ominous green EXIT sign as my guide. Only now do I realise that I could have used my cell phone as a flashlight.

All in all, I had a fairly eventful night. Thankfully, I have no homework to complete.

To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don't worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest.
~Author Unknown