Friday, November 28, 2008

Gattaca, transferred (AGAIN), the awful truth about coworkers, burned out

This week, being that there is no class cause of Thanksgiving (which is actually today -- HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE), my bio teacher made arrangements to stream the movie Gattaca for us over WebCT, the service which manages all online class content for CSUSM. I just finished watching it. I've seen it before, but I re-watched it anyways. I watched it a while back, I think for a class. Or it might have been because Tammy told me I should see it. I can't remember exactly. It was one of those two things.

Gattaca (whose name, cleverly, consists only of the letters - G, C, T, and A -- used to designate the four base pairs in DNA) is a movie which stars Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. Set in the "not-too-distant future," it shows a world where genetics has become everything. Your genetics determine your fate, including what job you are allowed to take. Most people choose to consult a genetic counselor before having a child, in order to assure it has the best chances possible. But there are a few people who choose to give birth without any genetic manipulation, but this is not recommended, and the births are pejoratively called "faith births" or "God births." Those born this way are deemed unfit for most aspects of normal societies and are labeled, literally, as "in-valid."

Vincent Freeman (Hawke's character) is one such "in-valid." Since his parents decided to do the typical genetic manipulation with their second child, he's had to deal with his genetically perfect brother Anton all his life. Despite his chances of life in the "elite" society being slim, Vincent dreams of going to space. His parents tell him with the heart condition he has (which was predicted at birth via a blood test from his foot), the agency sending people into space -- Gattaca -- would never take him.

Vincent is determined, however, and after much training and studying, he realizes none of that will matter; his genetics will stop his chances. So he decides to take drastic action. He contacts a man he hears about through word of mouth (played by Tony Shalhoub, now famous for the show Monk), who hooks him up with a wheelchair-bound former professional swimmer named Jerome Morrow (played by Jude Law). Genetically, Jerome is perfect -- exactly the kind of person that could attain what Vincent dreams of. But Jerome naturally can't take his usual place in society due to the accident that put him in a wheelchair. So, he agrees to help Vincent out by allowing Vincent to take on his identity. He provides him with blood and urine samples, as well as other genetics-related material for any genetic tests Vincent may have to take.

The plan works, and Vincent (now Jerome) gets hired at Gattaca (on the basis of a simple gene test, no less, with no "traditional" interview) and over time gets into the elite ranks. The movie (after the flashbacks) starts one week before Vincent/Jerome, a space navigator, is to fly on a 1-year manned mission to Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. At the beginning of the week, though, one of Gattaca's mission directors -- one who had opposed the Titan mission -- is found dead. Vincent/Jerome, who passes by the crowd of spectators by the director's office, accidentially leaves an eyelash behind on the windowsill.

The murder is, naturally, investigated. The eyelash is found, and comes up with Vincent's "in-valid" profile. This leads the cops to search for an in-valid who might have committed the crime, not believing Vincent is still alive (since he was predicted at birth to only live 30 years).

Meanwhile, Vincent/Jerome makes the acquaintance of fellow Gattaca worker Irene (Thurman). She tells him she isn't quite genetically perfect; like the real Vincent, she too has a heart condition. The post of Vincent's face on a company-wide bulletin leads him to consider abandoning his contract with the real Jerome, but the real Jerome talks him out of it. After a surprise police investigation at a party Vincent/Jerome and Irene attend, they run out the back door, and hear one of the cops calling "Vincent."

Evidence from a mint tin leads the cop (really Vincent's brother Anton) to associate Irene with Jerome. Irene sees Anton coming and secretly warns Vincent/Jerome, who is just coming into work, telling him he looks sick and should go home. However, Anton confronts Irene and demands that she take him to Jerome's house. Fortunately, Vincent/Jerome catches on and informs the real Jerome, who struggles out of his wheelchair, up the stairs, and into a chair to distract Irene and Anton. Anton does a blood test, and when it comes up with Jerome's profile (the same one Vincent/Jerome's blood sample came up as), he smells a rat. Once Anton leaves, Vincent/Jerome comes out of hiding just as Irene is leaving and addresses the real Jerome as Jerome (he had been calling him Eugene, to maintain their ruse), to which the real Jerome addresses Vincent/Jerome, also as Jerome.

Irene rushes out, and Vincent/Jerome runs after her and tells her his real name, that he is a "faith birth," and that he too has a heart condition. She can't quite take this and leaves.

Meanwhile, Anton arrives at Gattaca, having been contacted by his partner, to find that the partner has found the murder culprit -- the main director of Gattaca. It turns out the mysterious "in-valid" -- Vincent -- had nothing to do with it. Anton is annoyed at this turn of events.

Vincent/Jerome and the real Jerome discuss events, and Vincent/Jerome says he has to go see the cop. The two meet at Gattaca, and acknowledge each other. Anton tries to tell Vincent he will be in real trouble for fraud. Vincent tells Anton that he doesn't need Anton to save him -- but reminds him that he saved Anton's life once (this refers to one of the childhood flashbacks, which shows the boys racing at swimming as far out in the ocean as they dare, and Vincent having to save Anton from drowning once). They go out to the ocean to prove themselves to each other in another match of swimming. Anton begins to get scared when they can't see the land anymore, but Vincent tells him to keep going, saying he didn't save anything for the swim back. Eventually, Anton loses strength and Vincent has to rescue him again.

The day of Vincent's launch arrives. Before he leaves home, the real Jerome takes him to a room with multiple fridges, filled with enough urine, blood, and other samples to last him two lifetimes. When Vincent protests that he doesn't need samples in space, Jerome says he might need them when he gets back. Vincent asks Jerome where he's going, but Jerome only says, "I'm traveling too." He gives Vincent a card to open when he gets "upstairs."

Vincent heads down a hallway to enter the spaceship, and is stopped by his usual doctor for a random urine test. He purposely fills the cup with his own urine rather than one of Jerome's urine samples, and thereby reveals his real identity to the doctor. The doctor is surprised, but does nothing but say, "You're going to miss your flight, Vincent."

Vincent boards the spaceship. As it takes off, he opens Jerome's card and finds a lock of hair. Meanwhile, as Vincent boards, we see Jerome climb into the chamber where Vincent scraped off his extra skin, hair, fingernails, and the like and burned them nightly. Donning his second-place swimming metal, Jerome reaches out of the door and hits the switch to start the chamber burning. All we see is fire inside the door, and an empty wheelchair sitting outside.

The movie closes with Vincent saying in voice-over that he feels a little sad leaving Earth, even though he was someone "not meant for this world." Then, he says, since all the atoms in our body are said to have once been in stars, maybe he's not leaving after all -- maybe he's going home.


I wonder what life would be like if our future was like the one in Gattaca. Granted, a recent law passed by President Bush -- GINA, or the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act -- would prevent discrimination on the basis of genetic information. But in the future that might not matter. In Gattaca, Vincent mentions that it is against the law to discriminate based on genes, but that nobody really follows that law.

In my Biological Anthropology class, they taught us that only 1% of our genes differentiates us from everybody else on the planet. And according to the oft-mentioned studies, about that much makes us different from chimpanizees genetically. Actually apparently we are genetically similar to dogs, fruit flies, and even yeast -- to name a few.

Naturally, this genetic similarity to other species would seem to support the traditional Darwinian view, which suggests that all species had a common origin -- a pool of slime that existed somewhere around the dawn of time.

But humans are different than animals in some ways. In the rather boring book I had to read for history class -- The Wretched of the Earth -- they mention that having a cortex in our brains is a distinctively human thing; other rational animals lack the cortex and operate mainly from their diencephalon. Thus, when those who theorized that Algerians were savage stated that Algerians had no cortex, they were suggesting that they were nothing more than animals. The cortex, or cerebral cortex as it is commonly known, plays a role in memory, attention, awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. These are things that are commonly thought as making humans human. Animals are not self-aware or self-conscious; they don't necessarily have thought processes as we define them, either. You might say they have language because animals do communicate -- often in very interesting ways too. And certain animals would have to have attention to, say, track down prey. I argue some animals have memory because a squirrel, for instance, can bury a nut under a tree before hibernating, and then find it again in the spring. But none of these are quite on par with what humans have. Unlike in fairy tales and children's stories, animals don't actually talk or act human-like.

As a believer in creation, I find this genetic similarity thing hard to swallow. Does the 1% difference mean, as evolution suggests, that we came from another species, or does the 1% difference mean that we are all unique in our own way, even if we are similar in many others?

The verse Psalms 139:14 comes to mind: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" (NIV). I have believed that verse for a long time. The verses that follow it in the passage suggest that God knew us in the womb, and that all our days were written down before we were even born. I still believe that.

Being of childbearing age, I know I will have decisions to make on this issue sometime in the near future most likely. It's one thing if you take preventive genetic tests to see if you could pass on a disease, for instance. I myself am considering getting tested for cystic fibrosis, since my frequent respiratory problems could be signs of mild CF expression, and also as a white person my chances are 1 in 23 of having the gene. And based on the talk one of the project groups in my bio class did on autism, that's highly genetic as well, so I might want to find out about that.

But even my bio teacher has talked about how people could very easily manipulate genetics to their own ends. It would be scary.


Well on to less complicated topics. Anyway, as you can see in the title, I got transferred again. No real reason given, it just happened. I was informed of the fact last Friday, and on Monday I was at the new store. The new store is #157, the "Santa Fe" store. On the bright side, it is closer to my house than Encinitas, and as a lower-volume store it's not as busy. But it did stink to leave my friends at Encinitas, and as this was my second transfer since I've been with Stater Bros., I was worried that I had done something wrong.

So I started on Monday. I am working with Sandra again, who got sent back there from Encinitas. It does seem like it is easier to get work done, though I am still not totally familar with everything. The first night, I didn't put the respective breakout items in the right place and I ran out of time to mop the floor. The second day (yesterday), I accidentially forgot to clock in for work and didn't realize till I'd gone back in my department and started icing cinnamon rolls -- which meant it was off-the-clock work, which is a big no-no. I did go and clock in as soon as I realized, but I had to embarrassingly confess it to the store manager (I told him since I figure a timeclock change was needed, and based on experiences at Encinitas where I needed a timeclock change, I figured only the store manager had access to that), and he didn't seem happy, and then he had to go and tell me I had the wrong type of shoes for work on top of it, even though the shoes I was wearing I have worn to work for a long time without being told by anybody that they were wrong. So now I have to get new shoes, which I was going to do today except that Mum rather curtly reminded me nothing would be open today cause of the holiday. She suggested we go early tomorrow before I have to work (since lots of stores are open early thanks to Black Friday sales) but I didn't want to do that, saying I wanted the bus time to try to get my reading for school done. So I've decided to go on Sunday, which I also have off (yay!), and if Augie (the store manager) asks, I'll tell him I couldn't get them before Friday because nothing was open today. Hopefully, he'll accept that.

I will have to walk to the stores on Monday, but oh well. I want to do Christmas shopping for Amy and her family anyway. Actually, I already bought Amy's present on Tuesday after school. But I want to buy stuff for Jesse (her husband) and her two children. Arielle, her new daughter, likes things that play music, and Kevin, her son, loves Pokemon, so I should be able to get something for them easily. Jesse she said likes books, movies, video games, etc, so he might be harder to shop for. Plus, I don't know him very well. It's one thing when you're shopping for kids. Kids aren't as picky about gifts. People Jesse's age are. I don't want to get him a video game cause I can't remember what systems he has. As for books and movies, I don't know his preferences either. I suppose I could ballpark it. I hate to do that, but I don't know what else to do.

Speaking of presents, Sandra invited me to participate in a Secret Santa drawing between us and the deli department. I got Juan, the one lone guy in bakery, who I just met yesterday. I have no idea what to get him so I will have to ask Andrew (who's home for the holiday) what guys his age like (since Juan is 18). I have a feeling that Chase, the deli assistant manager and the lone guy over there, got me cause he was asking if there were video games coming out that I wanted (he probably heard that I like video games from Sandra, cause Sandra knows since she caught me playing my DS in the breakroom one day at Encinitas). I did check the "Game Forecast" in the recent issue of Nintendo Power that I bought, but nothing that's coming out for DS before Christmas looked interesting to me.


Yesterday, the same day I embarrassed myself by doing off-the-clock work and having Augie tell me my shoes were wrong, Sandra started telling me, unsolicited, that there were people at Encinitas, including the store manager, who wanted her out of there. This was already an awkward discussion, but then the focus turned to me. Sandra told me point-blank that she had had to fight to keep me in her department. I thought this related to her trying to get me working back in the department rather than sampling, so I explained how the sampling thing came about -- that Jennifer, our store assistant manager before Joe Bravo, decided we should have a sample person out there who knew the product and figured I'd be a good candidate, and that after that Diana Kelly (one of the district supervisors) took up the idea. But Sandra had to go and elaborate.

Apparently, there are people who wanted ME out too, including PATRICIA, of all people, who I really love and have missed greatly since she was transferred to the Jefferson store (#151). Sandra told me Patricia's one of those people who is nice to your face but stabs you in the back when you're not around.

I admit I was in shock. I remember my eyes going wide when I heard Patricia's name. My eyes usually go wide in the same fashion as other people's eyebrows raise -- out of shock or surprise.

I tried to take it calmly. I said, "Well, you think you know people" and then, a little later, I vocalized a thought. I said, "I wonder, what is it about me that makes people think they have to talk bad about me behind my back?"

I don't think Sandra answered, or if she did, I don't recall what she said. When I told my parents later, they said that I reacted very maturely.

Do I want to know, from the lips of these supposed backstabbers, their reason for their feelings against me? Sure. But the only way I could find out this information accurately is to ask them directly, and that would be very uncomfortable.

Why would I be so unliked? I don't think it's my faith; to be honest, I'm not very vocal about it, even at work. I'm not the type who tries to save every lost soul they see. In fact, I'm not sure how to witness at all.

Is it something about how I work? Generally, I don't complain too much; I usually save my complaints for my parents after work, for this blog, and occasionally for a few trusted coworkers to whom I feel I can vent at safe times. The only times other than these that I might complain badly is if I get visibly stressed or lose my composure, which does sadly, happen sometimes.

Katie told me before I left I shouldn't focus so much on the details of other people, such as their schedules (this rose from a misunderstanding regarding something I said that came off wrong). Initially, although I apologized to Katie, I felt that my natural extreme curiosity just lead me to focus on such things. Now I wonder.

Sandra said people wanted her to get rid of Joseph too. Impulsively, I told her she would be stupid if she did that. Maybe "stupid" is too strong a word, but she didn't take it badly. It's true though; Joseph has been with Stater Bros. for 8 years and is probably the best worker they have back in that bakery. He works really hard and is definitely dedicated; until he took vacation recently, he hadn't been on vacation in 4 years. Only recently has he been getting decent shifts and not closing all the time (his seniority deserves it), although he is an excellent closer. He's overall a nice guy, too, and I got the impression that he was well-liked. He seems easy-going, though I've noticed he stutters sometimes when he's nervous. I have told female co-workers that I can't understand why he doesn't have a girlfriend (he's in his 30's, someone told me, and I know from Joseph himself that he lives with his mother), because I think any girl would be lucky to have him. Come to think of it, why is it that the easy-going Average Joe (no pun intended) never seems to be able to get a girlfriend, while all the non-decent jerks do? Actually, it's that way with girls too -- normal, boring girls, girls like me who aren't obsessed with fashion, makeup, and drooling over say, the Jonas Brothers (or, to use a personal example, supposedly cute guys who run rides at Disneyland) don't seem to get guys as easily, whereas the pretty, popular girls do. It's odd, there are people and groups that fight against females being perceived as mere objects, and yet women are obsessed with being perfectly thin, overly pretty, and eternally young (just think about the number of anti-aging products you see ads for). In a way, they are unconsciously asking to be perceived as objects, perceived the way guys' visual-propelled instincts push them to perceive women.

The traditional marriage service says that marriage exists for three reasons: for the procreation of children; as a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; and for the mutual society, help, and comfort of each other in prosperity and adversity. Affairs and the breakup of marriages when hard times hit show that people don't follow the last two. But children people seem to care about; a couple on the verge of divorce will often try to save the marriage for the children's sake. So apparently some people marry to have children.

Sorry, I know the above was random; I am writing off the top of my head at this point.

Anyway, I wish I knew exactly what people didn't like about me at work, but I am afraid to ask them, and they would likely be ashamed to admit it anyway.


On other notes, I traded in three of my DS games that I decided I didn't want anymore -- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Totally Spies! 2: Undercover and Code Lyoko (or, as it's sometimes known, Code Lyoko: Get Ready to Virtualize). I ended up buying the newer Code Lyoko DS game, Code Lyoko: Fall of X.A.N.A. It's based on season four and looks a lot more interesting.

So, the DS games I currently own are: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (which I'm still trying to beat the bonus case on), Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations, Pokémon Pearl, Pokémon Ranger, Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, and Code Lyoko: Fall of X.A.N.A. I figured the less games I have, the more likely I will play them all to the end. I do still want to buy the Pokémon Ranger sequel that just came out, and there's a few games I saw reviewed or featured in the recent issue of Nintendo Power I bought, including a sequel to Rune Factory, that I am interested in getting. Right now, I am post-game in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Pokémon Pearl. Rune Factory I recently decided to play again but I restarted the game because that game is really hard to pick up where you left off after a long absence. Today I restarted mine cause I couldn't get the sickle from Rosetta, and then I went online and found out you have to till 50 tiles of land in your field first before she'll give it to you. So I did.

Plans for the rest of the weekend: on Sunday, church (double yay!) and then shopping. Tomorrow and Saturday I have to work. But I did finish that boring history book (well, the content was all right, but the essays were really long and couldn't keep my attention), so now I am on to the novel for lit, which looks like it might be more interesting. I finished my slide for the bio project PowerPoint today, wrote my notecards from it, and sent the edited PowerPoint to Meiling, the girl who's going to put everything together in regards to the PowerPoint. So that's basically done. But I have to turn my attention to my huge lit project now, and I'm totally lost. I sent an edited thesis and intro for my critical analysis and an edited first part of my paper (the part we previously turned in) to my teacher via e-mail and am awaiting her advice. I also went through my OneNote notes for the project and discarded into "Unfiled Notes" any notes that didn't look useful, and tagged (with a star) the ones I'd already cited from or which looked useful. Hopefully, that will help. If anything, I can at least write the critical reception part and start compiling my final bibliography, which will go between the critical reception and critical analysis section.

I'm going to end with a positive "girl power" image from the scanalations of volumes 5 and 6 of the original Cardcaptor Sakura manga that I read today, but which I haven't been able to buy yet in print. (Dialogue is from right to left). It features Mizuki-sensei helping Sakura during the Last Judgment using the Moon Bell.



Aside from the cool "girl power" factor, I love the art (especially of the bell itself) and the act itself (in the anime, Mizuki-sensei's bell only gave Sakura a second chance at the Last Judgment -- it didn't change her wand like it ends up doing in the manga). Good night!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Magic Knight Rayearth OVA, I caught Salamence (FINALLY), career thoughts, etc.

Last night, I was bored and so on a whim I decided to search out a place to watch some anime, and decided on the OVA (Original Video Animation) for Magic Knight Rayearth, one of my favorite anime series. It consists of 3 episodes and was released independently of the Magic Knight Rayearth manga and TV series. I found a site where you could stream it, and sat back to watch.

The OVA was certainly interesting. Its characters are all part of the existing MKR canon, but the setting and story are different. In the OVA, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu already know each other and even go to the same school. Hikaru is no longer a kendo practicer and is instead head of the gymnastics club. Umi is the captain of some team, as in the original anime, but not fencing -- tennis this time. Fuu plays the piano. They all look slightly different too artistically -- well and also they are older; in the OVA they are a week away from graduating junior high, and junior high ends with 9th grade in Japan. In the main series they were all in 8th grade (and Hikaru was considerably shorter; in the OVA she's as tall as Umi and Fuu).

The storyline is that Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu made a promise under a certain cherry tree at the school that they would be friends forever. The cherry tree is said to have a fairy in it that will grant wishes it hears made under its tree. However, now that they are graduating, they are going to be separated -- Umi is going to a school somewhere else in Japan, and Fuu's father is being transferred to some other country for work. Hikaru, saddened by this, goes to stand under the cherry tree, and a creature (Mokona from the main series) falls out of the tree. Hikaru is excited that the cherry blossom fairy is real, but when she tells Umi and Fuu, they don't believe her.

Meanwhile, as these girls have their problems, a greater problem is on the way. Emeraude (the same Emeraude of Cephiro from the series, except here she resembles the older-looking "evil Emeraude" form she took on after the girls killed Zagato) is lost in a dream-like state of a time when her love, Zagato, was still alive. For whatever reason, just like in the original series, they can't be together (I think the reason in the OVA is that humans and spirits couldn't be together romantically; meaning one of them was a spirit). Zagato was killed as part of a ritual to save Cephiro, which is in peril because the number of its protective spirits has declined over time, causing the land to become a rocky wasteland. Anyway, Emeraude has made some wish which involves moving her castle to modern-day Tokyo, an act which will ultimately destroy our world. Her brother, Eagle (probably based on Eagle Vision of Autozam from season 2), is the primary person ensuring that Emeraude's wish is fulfilled. Meanwhile, great sorcerers of Cephiro have gathered in Tokyo for some sort of "divine test": Alycone (remember her? Zagato's ice-using minion?), Ascot (that little kid beast-summoner), and even Ferio (who in the OVA is apparently not Emeraude's brother). They all use animal "familiars" - Alycone has a cat that resembles an evil-looking, black-colored Glameow; Ascot has some beast of sorts (I think); and Ferio has an army of mechanized-looking insects. All three of them can turn these familiars into huge mechas called "deities." Ascot's looks like a lobster for some reason. Ferio's is insect-like, and I can't remember what Alycone's looks like but it's pretty scary and powerful.

So anyway, the only people who can stop these invaders are, apparently, those who inherit the "orbs" that will awaken the three Mashin (or "gods") that sleep within the Earth, and -- true to the original -- Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu are these people. Once again, they are helped by Clef, who is one of the few Cephiro residents actually opposing the invasion. Clef is significantly more older-looking in the OVA, though his general design (and even his magic staff) are pretty much the same. Also joining the resistance is Lantis, Zagato's brother. He actually has a spirit familiar too (some sort of dog or wolf, I believe) and he's also the best swordsman in Cephiro. He comes to Hikaru's rescue after she gets knocked unconscious after the fight with Alycone, and later, with the help of Ferio, assists the girls in the end.

The Mashin are similar to the TV series but are designed very differently, almost like EVAs but with animal attributes. They also are located on Earth instead of in Cephiro for some reason. Umi and Fuu's Mashin keep their original names, Selece and Windam. Hikaru's, on the other hand, is now named Lexus instead of Rayearth (maybe because the Earth in the OVA is now called RayEarth they didn't want to make things confusing by calling the Mashin Rayearth). The name "Lexus" may have to do the "car name" theme with character names in the series, since all the characters in MKR, except for Mokona and the three Magic Knights (Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu) are apparently named for cars.

Anyway, similar to the end of season 1 of the anime, the girls end up having to join together to fight the final boss (Zagato's "deity," which he can apparently control despite the fact that he's dead) but here this involves actually combining the three Mashin into one super-Mashin and doing a spell called Helix of Light. Oh and each girl has one spell only -- the rest of the fighting is hand-in-hand combat, much like the EVA-Angel fights in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Hikaru's is Flame Arrow, Umi's is Water Dragon, and Fuu's is Emerald Gale.

However, in the end, they still go their separate ways, so whether Hikaru's wish that they stay together actually comes true is uncertain.

Oh and Clef apparently uses some spell to trap all the other people on Earth in a time warp to protect them, and this makes the girls somewhat mad at him. Also Clef's health suffers because of his act, suggesting that it is something he should not have done.

Curiously enough, only the neighborhoods where we see fighting take place (Roppongi and one other neighborhood) actually are damaged, as we see in a news report at the end, meaning that despite the arrival of the castle, the entire Earth was not destroyed.


So anyway today I took a break from cleaning my room to play Pokémon Ranger while listening to Mugglecast at the same time. I was sitting down in my desk chair, cleaning off my desk, because I had suddenly had this awful back spasm again that I had last week when we went to shop for glasses, where it makes it hard to walk or bend down. (Mum said tonight that it could because I'm overweight, and that kind of talk always depresses me). Anyway, I was still trying to beat the stupid trial in the Jungle Relic where you have to capture Salamence at the end. And today, I DID IT. Yay!!! Basically what I did was seize an opportunity where I could draw circles around it, and started drawing circles crazy fast (since you need 21 circles to capture Salamence). And before I knew it, I had caught it. Yesss!!

After you capture Salamence (or Flygon or Kingdra), the 4th challenge becomes available, where you have to chase around and then capture a Charizard. Charizard doesn't take as many circles as Salamence (I think it takes like 12 to capture it) but while you try to capture it, these little flames appear on the ground which can hurt your Capture Line. So I failed in my first attempt, and so I'll have to try again.

I am thinking about careers again. I found and pulled out all my career assessment results from my Intro to Career Planning class, and I was just looking them over right now. I'm kind of too tired to analyze them though.

I just got an e-mail today saying I could start enrolling for Spring. But I need to get my MMR booster first, I know, so I don't have an immunization hold on my record. It's been hard to work it into my schedule. I'll probably have to make an appointment, cause their clinic times don't work with when I'll be free at school tomorrow. I guess I could make an appointment either today or tomorrow, assuming my work schedule will stay the same as usual (it hasn't changed yet).

Well there's not really anything else to say. Good night!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A short post-election response

(Woo this will be my 200th post!)

Well, as you all know, Barack Obama was elected the new President of the United States by a crazy electoral vote margin - 349-162 as of this very minute (187 vote difference, and 79 more votes for Obama than were needed to clinch the presidency). He won by a 6% margin of the popular vote (52% compared with McCain's 46%), by 7,343,831 votes. So in the popular vote it was very close, and this is probably because a number of the state races for Obama and McCain were really close (except for D.C. where Obama got 93% and McCain got 7%).

In McCain's concession speech, I could tell he seemed bummed about losing, but willing to accept Obama as the president (he kept calling him "my president"). He was very polite about it. It was a good speech.

Am I not happy? Well, yeah, cause I voted for McCain. But I'm not furious, cause I mean, it's done, there's nothing we can do about it, que sera sera. We have to move on. (I'm not nearly as annoyed about it as the College Republicans person is who sent out a club-wide e-mail giving his reaction).

On a lighter note, it looks like the state propositions I voted no on are going down, and the ones I voted yes on are passing. Particularly, 4 and 8 are passing, which is huge. Prop 4, if it passes, requires a minor to get parental consent before getting an abortion. I think this will be huge in abortion prevention. Prop 8 is the much-publicized "ban gay marriage" proposition.


On other notes...The Wretched of the Earth finally showed up yesterday. Yay.

Well I'm going to go out and get some new sneakers. Bye.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Thoughts on "Harry, a History"

I pre-ordered Melissa Anelli's book Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon, and for whatever reason it arrived early (it's not supposed to come out till tomorrow). It arrived last Monday (October 27th), just in time for my birthday. I was surprised to see it, actually. Mum handed me a package that had come, and I figured it was The Wretched of the Earth, the second of the two books which I ordered for school (and which still hasn't shown up), but no, it was Harry, a History. I was happy, though, because I had just finished my history reading that day and was looking for something new to read. Unfortunately, the history reading for Thursday took precedence over pleasure, as well as a chapter for bio, so I didn't end up reading it right away. But after I finished the bio chapter on Thursday morning, I was free to read. I probably would've started at lunchtime except that I was going to a College Republicans meeting to hear about the California Republican Party's stances on the state propositions for this week's election (which are, by the way, YES on props 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, and 12 and NO on props 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 10).

After school, though, I started, and for the rest of the weekend, it was hard to stop. But I had to work, so reading ended up being restricted to before and after work, on breaks, and on lunch. Like with Deathly Hallows (or any good book when I read it for the first time), I took my time with it, savored it. And last night, I finished it, having read it cover to cover over four days, even the notes, bibliography, and acknowledgments at the end. In my excitement over it, I posted a review on Amazon right away and commented on the fan page for it on Facebook and in the "Eagerly Awaiting Melissa Anelli's Book" Facebook group I'm a part of.

The book is awesome. I had heard teases of it on PotterCast, of course, but those barely said anything about the book, now that I look back on it. Even Sue's interview with Melissa didn't say much. I suppose they didn't want to spoil too much.

Anyway, the book filled me in on a huge part of the fandom that I'd missed by not getting into the books until January 2005, six months before Half-Blood Prince was released. I started listening to MuggleCast not too long after, and PotterCast (which I prefer to MuggleCast most of the time, since it features less goofing around and more serious discussion) came later. I believe I started listening in 2006. I seem to remember it was around Christmastime. Apparently, according to this blog, I started listening to PotterCast soon after (a post dated January 5, 2007, mentions it). I didn't have an iPod then; I had an mp3 player though so I just downloaded the episodes from the respective websites for the podcasts.

It was interesting to learn about Melissa's experiences and about the fandom in general, and I chuckled at things like finding out I was very not alone as a Harry/Hermione shipper in the pre-Deathly Hallows days. I was thinking about that at work this weekend. Why did I become a Harry/Hermione shipper? Why did I insist on it, even after Half-Blood Prince made the Ron/Hermione ship rather clear? I don't know exactly. I think it stemmed from really liking Hermione as a character and not caring much for Ron as a character. Ron, Cho, and Umbridge are the characters I can say for sure I disliked in the books. I never did like Cho, even in her brief introduction in Prisoner of Azkaban as the Seeker in the Gryffindor-Ravenclaw Quidditch match. I didn't much care for her in Goblet of Fire either (but then Goblet's not one of my favorites among the books), although I liked Cedric. The way they played with a Harry/Cho romance in Order of the Phoenix was sort of silly, especially the scene in the tea shop. And when the movie for Phoenix was coming out, they over-promoted the Harry/Cho kiss.

I pretended a certain Harry/Hermione fervor, as I recall, stating in the months before Deathly Hallows that Harry and Hermione should get together, and that Ron could be left in the cold (romantically speaking) for all I cared. For whatever reason, Harry just seemed a better fit for Hermione; she and Ron fought all the time, and for two people who fight all the time to end up together is a very overused cliché. Not that I regarded Ginny (who was touted as who Harry would end up with) with a similar negativity to how I regarded Cho. I do like Ginny. It just seemed very random that of anybody he would end up with Ginny. Yeah, he saved her life in Chamber of Secrets, but that's because she was his best friend's sister. (As Harry and the Potters say in their song "Save Ginny Weasley": "You can't take my best friend's sister...and get away with it!"). Heck, even Luna Lovegood would've made more sense. (She and Harry did seem like kindred spirits in Phoenix, and he even took her to Slughorn's party in Half-Blood Prince). But why Ginny? I will never quite understand Rowling's decision to pair her with Harry. I will accept it, since it is now canon thanks to the Deathly Hallows epilogue, but I will probably never understand it.

I also laughed at some of the later parts of the book which discuss the PotterCast tour in the weeks before the Deathly Hallows release; having listened to those episodes, I remembered a lot of the moments mentioned there.

The one chapter that really caught me off guard was the chapter "Banned and Burned," which deals with both censorship of the book by schools and Christians and Melissa's interview with Laura Mallory, a Christian woman in Georgia who has made herself infamous by her endless attempts to, via the legal system, get the Harry Potter books taken off of shelves in her state, claiming that the inclusion of witchcraft in the books could influence children who read them to practice witchcraft, and that therefore the books are evil and should be banned. PotterCast, when they have mentioned Laura Mallory in the past, have been careful to mention her in a respectful fashion, though their disagreement with her views is obvious. (Unlike MuggleCast, who has bashed her in the past and even tried to call her up multiple times while recording the show). Having heard that Melissa had interviewed Mallory for this book, I was interested to hear what Mallory had to say in her own words.

I won't go too much into detail about what she said (since the book is not yet out officially) but I will mention my reaction to what she said (trying to remain respectful). I must say Mallory takes her faith very seriously and has strong convictions, which one might consider admirable. I daresay I have never taken my faith as seriously as she. But then, I have never cared for extreme fundamentalist Christian views. I grew up going to a Baptist school (and Baptists are very fundamentalist), but the church I went to with my family was an Evangelical Free church, which while still conservative is not as fundamentalist (you can read more about it here). I do not know which denomination Mallory is a part of (the book said that she was not part of any one domination growing up), although I do know the Southern Baptist denomination is popular in the South. The way she talks about God speaking to her, and also about seeing this vision, makes her seem somewhat Penecostal to me.

One thing that shocked me was that Mallory had said that books like Harry Potter LEAD TO SCHOOL SHOOTINGS. I kid you not. The actual quote from the book (p. 189) says: "In October 2006, six months after that infamous school hearing, Laura made some of her most explosive comments about Harry Potter to date: that books that promote evil, like Harry Potter, promote a culture in which tragic school shootings occur, like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado, in which two students opened fire on their class and killed thirteen people." WHAT?! That just sounds shocking to me that she would even dare to say that. I remember quite well when Columbine happened. April 20, 1999, was a Tuesday and I remember I was home. I think it was before school. Suddenly a report came on the radio that something had happened in Littleton, Colorado. Since my dad grew up in Littleton, my parents turned the radio up. That was how I found out about the Columbine shootings. I remember that, even though I didn't know anyone involved or anything, I felt sadness. (I had similar feelings about 9/11). Why would someone do such a thing? Much later, I saw part of a TV program that detailed the incident and the investigations that followed. I could hardly watch it, remembering how awful it was from the news reports, and from reading the books about Cassie Bernall (She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall) and Rachel Scott (Rachel’s Tears: the Spiritual Journey of Columbine Martyr Rachel Scott) that came out not long after the incident. (She Said Yes was based on the initial report that Cassie had been asked if she believed in God and responded "yes" before being shot; this has since been shown to not be the case). I should mention that I did also see the Michael Moore film Bowling for Columbine, which mentions the shooting (I don't actually like Michael Moore; I had to watch the film for a class).

For Mallory to suggest that books like Harry Potter promote school shootings just blows my mind. While what you read, see, and so on can influence your behavior most definitely (those reading this might recall the famous allegation that playing violent video games influenced the actions of the Columbine shooters). But to say a book that includes witchcraft (which, remember, Mallory views as evil) promotes a tragedy like Columbine seems like such a non sequitur.

As for the idea of witchcraft being evil, Mallory gets the grain of that idea from the Bible. Multiple times in the Bible, we are told not to practice witchcraft (and various other forms of the occult, tied or not tied to witchcraft). Indeed, Saul in particular gets in a heap of trouble for calling up Samuel's spirit using a medium. It is condemned both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. I have actually read a very excellent Christian book on the subject called Dewitched: What You Need to Know about the Dangers of Witchcraft and Wicca. That book was not all "fire and brimstone" (the term for people who condemn sinners of every sort immediately to hell just because of their sin, without considering the possibility of redemption and/or forgiveness) but in a very understandable way addresses the main practices and beliefs of those who practice witchcraft and Wicca and what we can do as Christians when faced with these practices and beliefs. It's written technically for teens, but I got something out of it.

So, as a believer of the Bible, I believe what it says to be true, and this includes the fact that practicing witchcraft and the occult is wrong. In fact, in my story Darkly Bound, those shown to use "occult" powers are the bad guys, namely Shea and Jago. Even Nightshade, whose powers derive from an "occult" curse, is considered evil, whereas the powers Avalon has normally are used for good, like in fighting against Jago (twice), using postcognition to try to determine Terrence/Jago's identity, and precognition that allows her to anticipate the attack on Ryan's grandfather Barnaby. (Also, although it is not mentioned in this story, I had originally planned that Avalon, when she realizes in the morning what she has done as Nightshade, uses her telekinesis to return stolen products anonymously).

But practicing witchcraft and reading about a magical school are two different things. Magic has been part of mythology, folklore, and fairy tales for centuries. Heck, we even studied Edith Hamilton's Mythology in Mrs. Burnworth's senior year English class at Tri-City (a Christian school, remember). Nearly every classic Disney movie contains magic, mainly because they are based on those folktales and fairy tales of old (examples include Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast, all based on old fairy tales, and the more recent Arabian Nights-based Aladdin trilogy). One -- Fantasia -- even focuses partially on a sorcerer's apprentice (played by Disney icon Mickey Mouse). And Harry Potter isn't alone among fantasy series with magic that are acclaimed by Christians. There is, of course, the more overtly Christian Chronicles of Narnia series, as well as the not-so-overt (unless you read The Silmarillion's Ainulindalë, or Music of the Ainur, as well as other parts of The Silmarillion, and see the Christian parallels) Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was promoted by Christians as well as non-Christians when interest in the series re-ignited with the release of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Well, actually Narnia is not so obvious, because I was working at Loaves and Fishes at the time the first Narnia movie was released, and I got asked at least a million times how Narnia was Christian, and thus many times I got to go on a geeky spiel of my knowledge about Narnia and Lewis in response.

Actually, I was talking with Papa about this chapter the other night, and he mentioned Narnia, and I commented that I would be curious to know what Mallory thinks of Narnia, a clearly Christian series that also contains magic.

That chapter aside, I did enjoy the book immensely and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Harry Potter or knows someone who is. I definitely recommend it to people like me who aren't long-time fans or are fans who are not well-versed in the fandom, as it will definitely educate you about the intricate thing that is the Harry Potter fandom.

Well, that's all I can think of to say. I may blog on other things later today.