Tuesday, May 30, 2006

first lines

They say the first line of a story is crucial - it needs to really stand out somehow to draw the reader in. So I was musing over the first lines of some of my favorite novels.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."

"I was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him."

"My suffering left me sad and gloomy."

"It was love at first sight."

"My father's name being Pirrip, and my Christian name being Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip."

"The towers of Zenith apired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods."

What do you think?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

a trip to the zoo

I am never, ever going to the zoo during Memorial Day weekend again - it was unbelievably crowded. Sure, the baby koala was cute. But as a zoology major, sometimes I get frustrated at the things I overhear parents telling their children.

[at a pond full of tadpoles]
Small child: Mommy, what are those?
Mother: Baby fish!

[at the wolverine exhibit]
Mother: Look, [small child], a wolverine! That's a kind of wolf.
Father: Is it? I didn't think so.
Mother: No? Maybe it's a cat, then.

[at the orangutan exhibit, the gorilla exhibit, etc.]
Parent: Look at the monkeys, [small child]!

[at the Komodo dragon exhibit]
Small child: Daddy, these are poisonous, right?
Father: No.
Small child: Are you sure? I thought they were.
Father: No.

Honestly, those poor kids. I'm pretty sure I knew by a young age that tadpoles grow up to be frogs, wolverines are members of the weasel family, and there's a difference between monkeys and apes. And while Komodo dragons technically don't produce their own venom, the deadly bacteria in their saliva make their bite lethal anyway, so the difference is only academic. The saddest part is that most of this information is on the signs that accompany almost all the exhibits, and the parents just don't bother to read.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

april showers bring... may tornadoes?

My best friend and I went shopping this afternoon, and when we got home (after driving through moderate rain, nothing too terrible) I found out that we'd been under a tornado warning. Huh. Oh well, just so long as it didn't hit us.

Anyway, I went to the mall with the intention of not buying anything, but since I turn nineteen the day after tomorrow I decided to get myself a small birthday present and bought a pair of earrings at Hot Topic, the creepy punk/goth/whatever store. Now I can finally say I bought something there instead of just going in, staring in awe at all the band T-shirts, and leaving again. Somewhere deep inside me there is a punk rocker fighting to get out.

The only other interesting that's happened lately is that I finally got the contract for my poem that's getting published next month. Yay!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

noooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, remember how I posted about looking forward to the NUMB3RS season finale? Our cable went out Thursday, so asked a friend to tape it for me so I wouldn't miss it.

I called her today.

The first fifteen minutes taped and then it mysteriously stopped.

Ahhhh!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

another birdwatching adventure!

Our internet's been down for a couple days, but I'm back!

So today I got up at 6:30 AM to go on a trip to Crane Creek and the Ottawa Wildlife Refuge, led by a naturalist from the local nature center. When I arrived at the nature center and discovered that most of the group was comprised of obnoxious middle students who were there solely to get extra credit in their science class, it seemed like a bad omen. But, I didn't end up having to carpool with the obnoxious children - I ended up in a van with their teacher, the naturalist, and another lady - and the day got better from there. Beautiful weather, and lots of birds...

Our main goal was warblers, and since I've only been seriously birdwatching for a year and had never really done warblers before, it was a treat. At Crane Creek there's a boardwalk that takes you through a woodsy area that's absolutely crawling with them - American Redstarts, Black and White Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Yellowthroats, Mourning Warblers, Wilson's Warlbers... some others that others saw that I couldn't spot, too. Plus a female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (I would have loved to have seen a male, I never have), lots of Catbirds, a pair of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, some thrushes, and other goodies.

The surrounding marshes were crawling with herons and egrets, and we also got really luck and saw a King Rail. Rails are a wading bird about the size of a chicken, and I'd never seen any before, and the King Rail is by far the rarest species. It was the naturalist leader's first ever King Rail. Boy, did we get lucky!

Other sightings included Bald Eagles, Pied-Billed Grebes, a Vesper Sparrow, and a Blue-Winged Teal. And LOTS of Baltimore Orioles, which was cool. And a muskrat. :)

All in all a good day.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

season finale time

Last night I watched most of the season finale of Boston Legal. It was the first episode of the show I'd ever watched, but I love William Shatner, and it was fun. Very "grown up," as my parents put it - meaning there's lots of sex - but I liked it. The final scene cracked me up, because it totally broke the fourth wall. The two main characters (Shatner and that other guy) were sitting on a balcony having a deep conversation, and in the end they lifted their glasses "to next season." Excellent!

This Friday is the season finale of my one TV addiction, NUMB3RS. I started watching it when it first started during my senior year of high school, and this past year I got a lot of my friends at college hooked on it too. It's about two brothers, one of whom (played by the guy from Northern Exposure, which I've never watched but my mom likes) is an FBI agent and the other a mathematician, and the math brother helps the FBI brother solve crimes. My friends and I like it because we like the characters and the plots... but pretty boys don't hurt either. And Rob Morrow and David Krumholtz are soooo pretty. Anyway, the previews for the finale look pretty freaky, and I'm looking forward to it. The best news, of course, is that it's renewed for a third season.

Monday, May 15, 2006

the joys of rereading (and revising)

I'm reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the third time at the moment. It may seem funny, but I'm still picking up on details I missed the first two times through. One of the amazing things about those books is the way they can stand up to rereading after rereading.

Shortly before I came home for the summer I used up my remaining printing credit at school to print out a hard copy of the novella I wrote last summer. Having not looked at it at all since I finished it, I was kind of dreading what I would find, and indeed as I read through the first few pages I found myself moaning "Oh man... this is bad... the pacing's off, the word choice is poor... this sucks..."

My best friend and fellow writer, bless her, pointed out at this point that she'd read it right after I'd finished it and thought it rather good, so it couldn't be that bad. And she turned out to be right. Once I got past the awful beginning and got into the meat of the story, I made some interesting discoveries: I actually had a decent sense of place, a strong setting, for one, something I usually struggle with. My main character and her family were also pretty well done, though by the time I finished rereading the story I didn't actually like my protagonist as much as I had when I was writing her. She's a bit of a brat, really. But that's not necessarily a bad thing; a character can be flawed and still be sympathetic. Yeah, the word choice was laughably pretentious in some places, but to my surprise I discovered that I'd actually improved as a writer in the past year because some of the mistakes I'd made in this novella were things I would never do now.

Probably the funniest thing I've found that I need to change is a scene where the main character happens to be watching a birdfeeder out a window while she waits for another character to come back into the room... she sees a cardinal leave the feeder and go flying off across a cornfield. Last summer I hadn't done much serious birdwatching yet. Now when I read that I think, what the heck is a cardinal doing in a cornfield??? Heh heh.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

backyard wilderness

We have a big backyard that borders on an overgrown ditch, and we get a lot of wildlife running around our yard sometimes. For example, right now we have a pair of fat, bristly woodchucks (a.k.a. groundhogs or whistlepigs, depending on where you live) with a bunch of furry babies just starting to poke their noses out of the den, a pair of rabbits who no doubt have babies of their own somewhere, an assortment of chipmunks and squirrels, flocks of robins and grackles and starlings, two or three species of sparrow, the occasional goldfinch, and even a hummingbird now and then. Looking out the kitchen windows can be surprisingly entertaining. Oh, and there are tadpoles in the water that's accumulated on the pool's winter cover.

And, today there was a flock of Canada geese in the drainage ditch next to WalMart, with half a dozen fuzzy goslings.

Living in rural Ohio does have its pluses.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

home sweet... whatever

Here I am, with three whole weeks until I start my summer job. Yay.

For some reason my laptop is refusing to connect to the Internet here at home, which means I'm stuck using my parents' computer and don't have access to my nifty RSS feed subscription reader thingy. (Technological, aren't I?) So my reading of other people's blogs may become sporadic for a while, but at least I have Internet access.

Now, back to my usual summer break pursuits of watching Star Trek reruns and playing Sims 2. Huzzah for being productive.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

nossir, not me, i wouldn't do anything like this

"People who write books where the main character is a young, questioning writer should be shot out of a cannon into a pit filled with leeches."

Noooooo, I don't have a 2000 word excerpt and part of an outline for a novel in which the main character is a young, questioning writer. Of course not. Nuh-uh. Not me.

My stuff is all packed (except for my computer!), my room has been cleaned top to bottom, I'm all ready to check out and go home. Yay. But I'll miss my friends over the summer.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

music and musings

My friend SR just lent me what I think is my new favorite CD: the string quartet tribute to System of a Down's Hypnotize. That's right. String quartet covers of angry rock music. Does life GET any better???

My parents came today with boxes and we packed up the vast majority of my stuff and took it home. Basically all I have left here in my dorm room is clothes for tomorrow and Tuesday, my computer, my toiletries, my chemistry books, and miscellaneous pens and pencils. And the sheets on my bed. Letting my parents take home my headphones, both my CD players, and my entire CD collection was a mistake, since I have trouble studying without TV or music in the background (our TV is gone too); thus the reason I went down SR and N's room and begged music and headphones from them.

Anyway, I had an adventure last night, consisting of trying to make Oreo cheesecake with E and N. Our unsuccessful attempt. I had never made cheesecake before, and apparently it's not easy, because we ended up with burnt Oreo crumbs and filling the consistency of a glue stick. Maybe if you halve the recipe you shouldn't bake it the full amount of time... or maybe stirring the filling mixture for twenty minutes was overkill... or maybe you just shouldn't bake cheesecake in a toaster oven...

Wish me luck on my chem exam tomorrow. I'm sitting right on the fence between a B+ and an A-, so this test will pretty much determine my fate. Will I keep my 4.0 GPA? Will I not? So good night, all, and think of me at 1:30 tomorrow afternoon...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

six degrees of separation

Ever played six degrees of separation? The goal is to see how many famous people you can connect yourself with in six steps, six "degrees," or less. My friends and I started doing this when earlier today M happened to mention that her cousin is one of the people who discovered the tenth planet (I don't remember what it's called, but it's bigger and further out that Pluto).

Between me, M, S, and two other friends of mine, N and E, we managed to come up with a LOT of people. Here are a few:
  • Katharine Hepburn in four degrees: a lady who goes to my church is the cousin of Hugh O'Brian, who was in The Shootist with John Wayne, who was in Rooster Cogburn and the Lady with Katharine Hepburn.
  • Wynton Marsalis (a famous, famous jazz trumpetist) in two: he's friends with my band director here.
  • Senator Joseph McCarthy in four: my dad's parents got a personal letter from J. Edgar Hoover when he was born, because my grandfather was in the F.B.I. and my grandmother was sick for a while after my father was born; Hoover knew McCarthy.
  • President Musharraf of Pakistan in six: S's grandfather played bridge with the father-in-law of the current prime minister of Pakistan, who obviously would know Musharraf.
And I could go on. The funny thing about this is that once you start doing it and you realize HOW MANY PEOPLE you can connect to, you start to realize how many more you could probably connect to if you only knew the steps. I bet I could get to Einstein, because I can get to the guy who came up with string theory in two, and theoretical physicists are probably all interconnected.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

time flies when you're having a nervous breakdown

So I didn't get the research fellowship I applied for next fall; in a way, I'm relieved, because it's one less thing I'll have to worry about. I did, however, find a summer job. I'm going to be an Order Entry/Customer Service Associate at School Specialty, which means I get to sit at a desk and enter numbers into a computer for forty-two hours a week.

I'm sitting here staring at the computer screen, various things I could write about cycling through my head. The one most on my mind right now is my amazement that I'll be going home for the summer in less than a week. Where the heck did the year go? I'd pretty much spent my entire life before this year looking forward to college, and now I'm already a fourth of the way done with my bachelor's degree and it still hasn't hit home that this is it, I'm actually a college student now. I don't feel grown-up and sophisticated and independent. This isn't all that different from high school, except for living in a dorm, which by this point just seems normal... not a big deal at all.

My roommate M has been taking down her posters and putting things in boxes, and last night we rolled up the area rug and put in a closet, ready to be taken home. The room looks really bare. This weekend my parents are coming to help me pack and start taking my stuff home.

Seriously. Where has my freshman year gone?