Sunday, September 26, 2010

"I am not worried, Harry," said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. "I am with you."

Big Harry Potter spoilers. You should have already read the books by now.

I touched on something in my earlier post about Harry Potter that I wanted to explore a little more. I mentioned how when I first started reading Harry Potter, I didn't fully understood what Dumbledore was saying. It all felt really cheap and kind of lame when he talked about "love" being a kind of magic. My 9-year-old self was thinking that if it's magic, there has to be a spell. J.K. Rowling was copping out in my mind.

Because really, I fell in love with Harry Potter because the universe was so neat. The characters were rich and as alive to me as any of my other friends. There was action and there was mystery. The writing held my attention so well I could just sit and read the books for days. In short, there wasn't any deeper meaning to me than what was right in front of me.

Except for all the hidden messages. Like how the chess scene in the first book was totally an analogy for how the entire war was going to go down? Or how Ron Weasley was actually psychic, he just kept making all his predictions like jokes because he didn't realize his own power? Reading in to the books was tons of fun. It was so much fun other people made books about it. That I bought and devoured.

I was really the perfect age to start Harry Potter. The books started from the perspective of an 11-year-old, which was not far from where I was in life. Magic was as exciting and new to Harry as it was to me. We experienced the new world together. At first, like Harry, I had no idea what Dumbledore meant about love. If love was magic, why wasn't there a class about it? As Harry grew, his understanding of his world matured, and so did mine. Life wasn't just about magic, life was about corruption and evil and deceit. Harry's view mimicked my own because of how we had grown together.

It started to make sense, for both of us, at Snape's death.

Voldemort didn't understand love. He didn't understand that someone would give their life for another person. He didn't understand it to the point that he completely overlooked it as a possibility. He believed that Snape was loyal to him, because it never occurred to him that Snape would die for his love of Lily. And that mistake ultimately brought his downfall.

And it was at that point that I fully understood what she meant. Almost ten years later, and with enough life experience, I was able to fully appreciate the magnitude of that message. I saw what J.K. Rowling meant by how love is powerful, as powerful or more so than most magic. In the end it doesn't matter how much magic any wizard could use. All that matters is that we have the capacity to love and care for each other.

I never would have understood that at the age I started reading Harry Potter. I mean, honestly, Dumbledore explained this point blank in the first book and it went right over my head. And people analyzed the books and thought that there was some underlying plot or secret that would be revealed in the last 20 pages, but it was so much simpler than that. I thought that making the answer "love" was cheap, but really, that's what made the books so GOOD. It was a story about a woman who loved her child so much, she gave her life for him. A story about a young boy and girl whose love we watched grow timidly and earnestly. A story about a man who loved a boy as if he were his own. A story about a man who loved another man.

A story about a man who did not love.

J.K. Rowling wrote a story about love and how no matter what our abilities and our choices are, love is all that will truly define us.

I had a really special experience, as my entire generation did, to slowly grow with the series to learn its ultimate truth at a time when we could fully know it.

Friday, September 24, 2010


So today I was minding my own business, studying for Modern Techniques in Chemistry, and I started to read about buffer solutions. That's when I saw it.

Don't you see it? Here, a bigger, blurrier picture:


If you google "Aha! A buffer!" You find out that David Harris is SUPER FOND of this phrase. He says it in all of his books. A LOT.

More instances:

Seriously, all I have to say about this is WHAT A WEIRDO.

aha. a buffer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Because I Have Something Worth Living For!"

I loooooooooooooooove Harry Potter. I can't even count the ways that I love it. I grew up with it, and my understandingand appreciation grew too. It's so interesting and fascinating and moving on so many levels. And not fake levels like The Old Man and the Sea, real levels like Inception.

The second to last movie comes out in November, and I'm really excited, and a little sad. This really is the end of an era. I mean, it will start again when I have kids and I start reading it to them, but it's the end of Harry Potter's true presence in the world. There will be no more movie premieres or book releases. It will depend on its fans to keep it going.

I remember going to the movies when I was younger and being really disappointed. The movie skipped out on some part of the book that I loved, or it didn't do this one scene quite right. The director moved EVERYTHING. And changed all the clothing rules. And nobody pronounces anything the way I want them to pronounce it.

But as time went on, I began to appreciate the movies for what they really are. The point isn't to be a visual representation of what I read, it's an interpretation. It's capturing the emotions and the story in a different medium, and the transition means it HAS to be different. There's no other way.

It's fun to experience the story in a different way. It's fun to see what another person thought of the story, to see what they think about the characters. That's why fanfiction and fanart is so popular, people want to express how they feel about the Harry Potter universe through what they're good at. And I want to see it. I want to experience it with them. Harry Potter is more than a story because it's connected me to so many people and created a common experience for me with all these strangers. We all cried when Dumbledore died, and we fought over whether Snape was good or bad. We hoped beyond reason that Sirius was still alive behind the veil. We waited with bated breath for that kiss between Ron and Hermione. We felt it all and we felt it together, and for two more movies, we will feel it all again.

J.K. Rowling once described Harry Potter as a love story. When I was younger I really didn't understand how "love" was an ancient magic, how it protected Harry, or really anything Dumbledore ever said. It's been a surreal experience to finally, together with Harry, understand what Dumbledore and consequently J.K. Rowling really meant. It's a love story on so many levels, one J.K. Rowling never could have planned: the love among the fans. We read the books on our own, silently, in our rooms. But we watch the movies together, we watch them in a huge room full of people who all feel the same rush as that bespectacled face comes on screen for the first time. We all get it, and we love each other for it. The energy is contagious.

So when the movie comes out in November, I'm sure I'll be upset that they skipped certain scenes, or that Ginny Weasley is stone cold and not vibrant and witty, but I'll put my nit-picky criticisms aside and enjoy it. I'll get goosebumps as I see Daniel Radcliffe make a triumphant return as one of my favorite heroes, I'll be terrified when Helena Bonham Carter steps on screen, and even though I know where Snape's loyalties lie, I'm going to be skeptical with the trio. I'll love it for what it is and what it's meant to be.

I think everyone feels this way about something. Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, Twilight even... we all connect to the characters in ways that we don't connect with other fictional beings. Something about them just resonates with who we are as people, and it makes us want to know more. We want to keep the feeling alive and going, and that happens through other fans. I won't know the 10-year-old sitting next to me in the movie theater that night, but I'm sure we've both read all the books about 3 times. At least. And if she knows what's good for her, her favorite character is Sirius.

Or maybe Snape.

No Dumbledore.

No Snape.

I'm so excited.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No Make-Up Week!

I remember very clearly when I started wearing make-up.

It was Junior High, and something happened to everybody between sixth and seventh grade. We went from putting on make-up at sleepovers to be silly and feel adult to wearing it on an everyday occurrance. It was literally a light switch in everybody's heads. I always felt a little behind the curve, I think I noticed everyone else wearing it and the thought occurred to me, "Should I be wearing make-up?"

It was probably a combination of wanting to feel adult, wanting to fit in with the group, and wanting to explore an artistic outlet. Because honestly, that's how I view make-up: it's artistic! You have a living palate on which you can express emotions and desires through color. I find that really exciting. I enjoy make-up in the same way I enjoy fashion: as an expression. I like who I am, but it's fun to try new things and experiment with my identity. Make-up is a way to put on a new face for an evening. When I go to fancy events, I like to wear it because it makes me look different, and different can be fun and exciting! I like that.

But not all women view it that way. And I stopped seeing it that way too. At some point I did convince myself I needed it. Which, when I look back, is so strange. I was 14, no 14-year-old "needs" make-up. Then again, NO ONE needs make-up. But certainly not 14-year-olds. I got over it quickly, but obviously most women don't.

I hit high school and I'm not sure what happened. My type of friends changed, my attitude changed, my confidence changed. Maybe even something entirely different spurred me on, but I stopped wearing make-up. I didn't feel the need anymore. I didn't wear make-up one day and nothing changed. Nobody stopped liking me. Nobody commented on me looking any different. My whole world was completely unphased, so clearly the extra 30 minutes I was spending on make-up was not worth the effort.

I stopped wearing make-up.

But most women don't. In fact, for most women, it only gets worse.

This statistic completely blows my mind: 8 out of 10 women prefer their female colleagues to wear makeup.

holy crap. holy effing crap.

Honestly I don't even know what to say about this. Maybe, at an engineering-oriented school, I'm secluded from this mentality, but I'm so used to trying to look nice one day and having 15 different people ask me why I'm dressed up. I'm reasonably certain I'd be judged more for wearing make-up than not wearing it.

What's sadder to me is that this isn't men judging women, it's women. I'm sure someone will come up with an argument for how men contribute to this problem, but from what little I understand of this issue, it is women being their own worst enemy. It doesn't make me mad, it doesn't frustrate me, it just makes me really sad.

No Make-Up Week is an interesting idea to bring light to the issue. I wish I could feel like I was actually contributing, but this is just another week in my life. Maybe some other women will understand make-up's true purpose through this experiment.

Here is my picture without make-up!

I put make-up on and took a picture after this, but you really couldn't tell the difference. I'm going to wear make-up today in an interesting reversal of my schedule. We'll see what happens.

Sorry the picture is dark, I'm only an amateur Blackberry photographer.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's the Little Things...

Today, I am wearing a sweet unicorn necklace.

That is all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Plants Plantify Humans to Understand Us Better

I bought flowers at the farmer's market on Saturday. Two sunflowers and something else. I can't remember what its name is. But it was pretty.

I thought my room would look really nice with flowers. And it did.

Until they died.

I don't really think I expected them to last that long, but it made me kind of sad. I feel like I failed them. I feel like I bought them, and I bought the responsibility that came along with owning living things. I know, they're plants. They don't have "feelings." But aren't feelings relative? Isn't the mind just a construct of us thinking we're better than everything else because of our higher intelligence? Maybe plants don't have feelings the same way we do, but that doesn't mean they don't have them at all.

Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy had an interesting thought to share about perspective:

However, as soon as you want to send a space probe to another planet, geocentrism becomes cumbersome. In that case, it’s far easier to use the Sun as the center of the Universe and measure the rotating and revolving Earth as just another planet. The math works out better, and in fact it makes more common sense.

However, this frame of reference, called heliocentrism, still is not the best frame for everything. Astronomers who study other galaxies use a galactic coordinate system based on our Milky Way galaxy, and the Sun is just another star inside it. Call it galactocentrism, if you want, and it’s just as useful as geo- or heliocentrism in its limited way. And none of those systems work if I want to know turn-by-turn directions while driving; in that case I use a carcentric system (specifically a Volvocentric one).

You use coordinate systems depending on what you need.

So really, there is no one true center to anything. I suppose you could say the Universe is polycentric, or more realistically acentric. You picks your frame of reference and you takes your chances."

It got me thinking about life and how it is so self-centered. If you think about the primal goal of survival, it's a waste of time to think about anyone else, unless ultimately in the end you also benefit. We can't escape that train of thought as it's our nature, but being aware of it can at least help us correct ourselves and remember that there are infinitely more frames of reference out there.

So I try to think about things from the flowers' perspective, and as far as they're concerned, I bought them and let them die a slow and potentially painful death.

And yes, I'm aware that as I tried to relate to the flower, I personified it, which may just be that much more insulting.

Life is funny that way. We have to personify things in order to relate to them, and it gives us this strange idea that in order for something to be alive it has to be exactly like us. It's apparently only wrong to hurt plants assuming they experience life in the same way we do. But the definition of life is tricky: too stringent and you leave out key creatures that are very definitively alive; too loose and all of a sudden it's murder to crush rocks.

Makes me wonder how we hope to find life outside of earth. For all we know, we're excluding living things right here on our own planet, and we hope to find living things outside of our own atmosphere? Who's to say there aren't any living things that adapted to an atmosphere of purely carbon dioxide? Water is essential for life as WE know it, but that doesn't measn it's essential for life. And if we do find something that fits outside the scope of our current definition, what then?

I want to be aware of these different perspectives, but my mind is so limited in how it thinks.

Maybe plants plantify things. They imagine humans as plants to better understand us.

And there I go personifying them again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Thoughts On This Semester

I enjoy science. I enjoy cool things that science allows us to do, and I love how science is just super fun to learn. I don't care how much you enjoy Jane Austin, reading her books is never going to be as fun as lighting stuff on fire. Or creating a really loud noise from a bunsen burner. Or any other number of super sweet demonstrations.

But I hate labs.

I think it has to do with my slight OCD tendencies. I feel like once ONE THING goes wrong, then the whole thing is doomed. I get freaked out that the last few molecules in the beaker that I couldn't get out are now going to throw my entire data set off. I puts around forever putting off the inevitable pouring I have to do.

My data is never right and my blood pressure is always twice what it should be.

BUT! Today went awesome. I mean, we were doing titrations, and I've done those before. A lot. So I felt comfortable with that idea. They told us to get this color and not that color, and everybody kept getting that color but all three of mine were this color.

And it felt so good.

And my data didn't completely suck. And then I got out with 40 minutes to spare!

Remember last semester?

Yeah. That semester.

Well this semester is going to be SO MUCH BETTER. It's going to be way more like this:

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I'm going to attempt to continue to blog. I'll no longer tackle issues that are not directly related to myself, though. I think that's the easiest way to censor myself and still feel like I'm not putting anybody related to my job at risk. I've also noticed that most of my posts ARE personally related, so I don't think that will be too hard for me to adhere to.

Being an RA during the school year is, as predicted, much harder than being an RA during the summer. Being an RA for freshmen is, again, as predicted, much harder than being an RA for upperclassmen. Watching them interact with each other and deal with issues has forced me to reflect on my freshman year a lot and how I've grown.

You may have noticed, but I REALLY enjoy doing that. I like to think that I can create a model of my growth and predict where I'm going. The more data I have the more accurate the model and the more reliable the prediction is. lawl CPDC.

Where the y-axis is some quantity that describes my growth as a person which accounts for maturity, knowledge, and beliefs and the x-axis is age.

There are two things that really stuck out to me about my growth from freshman to now.

One thing I didn't do was party as a freshman, and none of my freshmen friends partied, and honestly some people I knew were downright RIGHTEOUS about how they didn't party. Kind of a moral high horse, a way to feel superior for some people, I've noticed.

I didn't intend to party as a freshman, but I was impressionable. I was trying to figure out what was normal, you know? How was partying perceived at RPI? I hadn't really gotten the impression that RPI was a party school, but I could tell there was drinking. Do all upperclassmen drink? Is it unavoidable? Am I going to have to drink to have friends?

This didn't seem the case from the friend group I made, early on it was seemingly apparent that lots of people at RPI my age didn't drink. But of course, over time, most of those friends started drinking. They entered the party scene.

Why didn't I? Maybe because I never convinced myself it was a moral decision, or even the "right" decision, just that it was *my* decision. But the stronger factor was that Erik, at 22, did not drink. He legally could, and all his friends did, but he chose not to! If he didn't have to drink, then I certainly didn't have to drink. He was my non-drinking buddy, and now that I've gotten out of the impressionable freshman phase, I'm confident enough in myself and who I am that I won't drink even if Erik did start. It was the first experience I'd ever truly had with a role model.

I've also noticed how long it has been since I've learned something TRULY new to me. Watching all my freshmen do IEA problems and whine about General Chemistry has shown me that. Everything so far has mostly built off of previous classes, spun the same topics in different ways. I always felt like I was learning the same information, just in a different language. It was challenging, but I didn't find it interesting.

Finally, for the first time, I'm learning things that feel truly new. Of course it all involves some physics and chemistry, but applying those very basic concepts in new situations. My two Chemical Engineering courses this semester are honestly very exciting to me. I feel like I'm actually learning how to be a chemical engineer. I feel like I'm challenged in a way that makes me want to me the challenge, like I felt in CellBio (though almost all of that was a repeat) with Professor Plopper and U.S. History with Mr. Guilfoyle. Except this time my desire to do well isn't because I want to please my teacher, it's because I really want to excel at these topics. They're things I want to know, they're things I'm driven to learn, not for the grade but for the knowledge.

Pretty sure this is what college is supposed to be.

Still, I'm not sure what I want to do. But at least I'm apparently learning the right things.