Thursday, January 31, 2008

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling has Harry entering year two at Hogwarts. In the beginning of the summer, Harry is warned by a house-elf, Dobby that evil events will take place at Hogwarts and that Harry must not go back to school. Despite Dobby’s warnings, Harry of course attends school.

The school year starts off reasonably calm, but soon Harry hears a voice (that no one else can hear) wanting to attack and kill students at Hogwarts. A message scrawled in red reads, “THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE” with the caretaker’s cat hanging petrified. Soon students are being attacked and no one knows who is behind it.

Harry, Ron and Hermione are determined to figure out who the Heir is and where the Chamber of Secrets is located to stop further attacks. Harry finds an old diary written by a student named Tom Riddle, who was around fifty years ago when the Chamber was first opened. Harry travels to Tom’s memory and learns that Hagrid, the grounds keeper, was charged with letting a monster lose in the school.

Hagrid is sent to prison, but the attacks continue and Hermione is the latest victim. Just as Harry and Ron figure out what type of monster is assaulting the students, Ron’s little sister, Ginny, has been taken into the Chamber of Secrets. It’s now up to Harry and Ron to save her.

I have to admit, the first few books in the series aren’t my favorite and Chambers is definitely at the bottom for me. We do get to meet a lot of new characters including the majority of the Weasley family, Lucius Malfoy, Cornelius Fudge (Minister of Magic), Dobby, and most importantly Tom Riddle.

Tom Riddle is pivotal in Chambers. Tom is able to come back to life by feeding off of the soul of Ginny Weasley. His original intent was to kill Mudbloods, but once he learns that Harry Potter attends Hogwarts, he knows he must come face to face with Harry. That is because Tom Riddle grows up to become Lord Voldermort. Once again Harry comes face to face with his worst enemy.

We also learn some similarities between Harry and Tom. Both are orphans, both have one pure blood parent and one half blood and both can speak Parseltounge. Dumbledore informs Harry that when Voldermort attempted his curse on Harry, that he left a part of himself with Harry, but the biggest difference between them is the choices that they make. As Dumbledore states, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

The similarities and the connection between Harry and Voldermort will continue to play a significant role throughout the series. This won’t be the last time Harry questions it. We also learn that Ginny Weasley has a very big crush on Harry.

Harry survives another year at Hogwarts and also defeats Lord Voldermort for a third time. Geez, Lord Voldermort doesn’t seem so powerful does he?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Wease

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Iz a Weasley!

Da One and Only Weasley!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Screen Shots

Last week I got to go to the Ansel Adams exhibit, which was a really good and displayed a variety of his work. Not only did you get to view his famous landscape photos, but also some of his earlier work and other projects that caught his interest. It’s amazing how he can capture a moment in time so vividly. There were some pictures where I could stare endlessly, lost in thought, analyzing the details and emotions it evoked in me.

I’ve always had an interest in art and photography. I wouldn’t in any means call myself an artist. I can barely draw a stick figure and make it look believable. I tried taking a watercolor class, but I don’t have the imagination or the skill and all my efforts looked heinous. So instead, I appreciate artwork. One day I hope to have a great art collection hanging in my home (all originals of course).

I do like to take pictures, and again, it’s not even a real hobby or passion, but on a rare occasion I take a picture that I just love. Maybe I had the perfect lightening, or its one of my favorite subjects, but there are some pictures that I love to look at over and over again. I pull them out and say I’m going to frame it or enlarge it.

Here are some of my favorites pictures from California when I was visiting my brother.

I love this photograph of my brother and me. I like that our faces came out blurry and that we aren’t standing side by side. I love the rays of sunlight seeping in through the redwoods and we just look so tiny and minimal compared to the massive beauty of the trees.

I took this picture of a redwood because I was just amazed at the size of it. If you look closely, there is a charred trunk in the middle from a forest fire, and the surrounding trees grew around the dead tree. I also like the splash of green that comes out from the leaves.

Again, another shot with sunlight shinning through. I love how the sunlight lightens up the background and plays with the shadow of the trees. This picture speaks of serenity to me.

Here is a contrasting photograph where the sunlight is trying to peak through and instead you get nothing but shadow and darkness. The only color that really pops in the picture is the green from the leaves. The trunks look like huge black formidable pillars that reach into the sky.

I think I will make this a series in my blog where I post my favorite pictures.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Let it Snow!

Today we finally had our first substantial snow fall in the DC area. It's probably only about three inches, but it was enough for my manager to let us out early, so for that I can't complain. Call me crazy, but I have been hankering for a blizzard. There hasn't been a real blizzard since the Blizzard of '96. I remember there being only in early 2000, but it didn't have the same impact as the '96 one.

In '96, I was still in high school, and school was closed for at least a week and all my finals were canceled. Every morning I got up, put on my snow pants, walked over to my bestfriend's house and went sledding all day. We would only go inside for hot chocolate breaks or if the cold became unbearable. It was awesome and I didn't once get cabin fever since we spent most of our day outside playing in the snow.

I think this area is long overdue for a blizzard. I want to get snowed in for a week. I have the perfect plan for my blizzard. I'll make sure to stock up on lots of good eats such as marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate, tomato soup, cheese and bread, fish sticks and french fries. I'll start my Lord of the Rings marathon and then my Harry Potter marathon. I'll lay in bed all snuggled and warm reading books and drinking hot chocolate. When I get cabin fever, I'll take the Weasley out for some fresh air and make little snow angels and snow cats. I'll ask the neighborhood kids if I can join them sledding and help them make snow forts.

I want a real winter with lots of snow. I want to stand outside, with my eyes closed, letting the snowflakes kiss my face, as I try and catch them with my tongue. I want the snow to continue falling as I go to sleep at night and wake up with the trees and grass blanketed in sea of white. It sounds so magical, but I know I'll be eating my words if a real blizzard hits. But I still want one all the same.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Should I be Offended?

That after I pet and kiss Weasley, he immediately begins to clean any area of his body that I have just touched. He doesn't wait five minutes, he doesn't even wait three! The second my hand is off his body, his head is tilted back, tongue is out, and he obsessively starts licking away at any spot where my fingers have petted.

At first I took this as him being a very neat and clean cat. But then I began to notice that he does this every time after I cuddle him. Is my smell so offensive that my cat doesn't want the scent of me lingering on his body? I could understand if I just finished working out or sprayed perfume, but he does this after I shower as well. Well, now I just think its plain rude.

So to get him back, after he is finished doing a thorough cleaning job, I go back over and run my hands all over his fur. I mess it up real good too, by starting at the tail and working my fingers up, tousling his hair so that it looks like a mohawk. Weasley is livid and has this look of utter shock and outrage. He doesn't even wait for me to finish, and begins the obsessive licking all over again.

Revenge is sweet.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Digital Fortress

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown lacked the umph that made The DaVinci Code such a spectacular novel. Don’t get me wrong, the story was suspenseful and thrilling, but I wasn’t as riveted as I was when reading DaVinci Code.

Digital Fortress is about the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Crypto department. Susan Fletcher is head of the Cryptography Division and is called into work to help Commander Trevor Strathmore solve an unbreakable code.

Unbeknownst to Susan, Commander Strathmore has also called her fiancé, David Becker and sent him on a top-secret mission to recover the passkey to help break the code.

As with any Brown story, nothing is as it seems and some characters are playing both sides of the fence. Its always fun to try and guess who is double-crossing or what some players real agenda is.

Brown loves writing stories involving codes or symbols and it amazes me how knowledgeable he is on the subject. He also throws in clues throughout to help you solve his little puzzle. It shows great planning and thought, which is what I love about his books.

Brown does a terrific job in building the suspense by keeping the chapters short and ending the chapter on a cliffhanger while starting the next chapter involving another character. It makes the story seem very fast paced and you cannot put the book down.

I think my biggest problem with Brown (and I felt this way too when reading the DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons) is that each situation becomes more and more over the top. Just when you think David is about to find the passkey, a stroke of bad luck occurs and foils his attempt to retrieve it. It gets to a point, where the story is no longer believable. I find myself exclaiming, “Are you kidding me?”

I was also upset that Susan Fletcher was not that strong of a character. I picked up this book in particular because the story was centered around a female lead, but she wasn’t a leading lady, more passive and allowed the events to control her. I was hoping she would take charge of the situation, but she didn’t and it was disappointing.

Digital Fortress was sub par to me, but you gotta admit, Dan Brown started this whole genre of novels involving hidden symbols and a race to save mankind.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

No More Repeats!

Will be my New Year’s theme. And by no more repeats, I will not repeat any behaviors or patterns that I consider to be unhealthy or unworthy.

No more repeats also means I will not go back to any of the men I dated or had relations with because I end up in a destructive cycle that does not move forward but continues to spin on repeat until I’m drowning in the abyss. I will only date new men and not going running back to old ones if the relationship fails. I no longer need that anchor that weighs me down and causes me not to give anyone else a real chance.

2008 is all about moving forward and letting go of unnecessary drama. I will try and learn from my mistakes from the past so that I won’t continue to fall into the same rut. If I see myself treading into destructive behaviors, I will stop and think about what triggers this in me and why do I feel it necessary to engage in such actions. I will not allow myself to get caught up in the same old shit as before and form more positive reactions.

Some other minor goals I’d like to accomplish this year:

- Decide on a career path for me. My last few jobs (including the current one I am in), I sorta just stumbled into them and while they have paid the bills and afforded me my lifestyle, they haven’t been my passion. I need to sit down and think about what I want to do as a career. And from there create a plan on how to get my dream job.

- Learn to curb my spending habits. I spend way too much money and need to rebuild my savings account. Currently I am living paycheck to paycheck and the Type A in me hates it. I need to get my finances back in order and start building up my nest egg. No more buying on a whim. I will only purchase items if I need it or have wanted it for some time and know that I will get good use out of it.

- Try not to take things to personally and let go of the little shit. “All the ifs, ands, onlys, and buts can’t change what is” – I read this once a long time ago and that was before I wrote down where I got it, so this will go marked as un-cited.

I know its only eight days into the New Year, but I feel very optimistic, which is quite unusual for me. I’m the biggest cynic you’ll ever meet, but for once I feel hopeful. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking my words will be biting me in the ass come end of year, but I’m keeping them up there to remind me and to not give up.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Books of 2007

In 2007, I made a goal to read 20 books and I hit my goal plus one! Hooray for me. I tried to broaden the authors I read and picked up a few non-fiction books. Here is a run down of my analysis.

This year, I tried to diversify and read more books written by men. There is a different point of view when you are reading a book by a male. Male authors look at relationships from a different angle, and its even more interesting when they are writing from a woman’s perspective. Out of the 21 books I read, 40% were written by men.

I only read 3 non-fiction books this year, and two of them were memoirs. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion was such a compelling read. This memoir was one of my favorite books this year and I wish I had gone to see the play when it came to DC.

Another favorite book of mine was of course Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. I think she finished off the series beautifully and answered all the questions that were in the previous books. Rowling made reading fun again and reminded kids and adults that there is a whole world out there that doesn’t involve video games or sitting in front of a tv or computer.

Some other honorable mentions of my favorite books are Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini. The books fall under the fantasy realm and remind me of Tolkein, but not as wordy. I’m hoping he’ll finish the final book soon. Another great read is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It has an interesting concept and besides the science fiction twist, really displays relationships and our need to belong.

One of my biggest disappointments was Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris. I have read of all Harris’s books and Hannibal Lector was one of my favorite characters of all time. He had so much depth and personality and was a man so evilly twisted. I could not wait to find out how Hannibal became this sociopath and felt rather under whelmed by it all. The prequel didn’t give you a real sense of why Hannibal continued to kill or what motivated him.

I will still keep my goal at 20 for this upcoming year. Towards the end, I found myself putting too much pressure on reading enough books to hit my goal, that I didn’t really enjoy some of the books that I was reading or picked books because of their length. The whole point isn’t just about hitting a target number, but also enjoying the story, getting lost in another world and experience different realities and viewpoints. I do want to read a few more non-fiction because I feel like I’m getting dumber since I haven’t been in school in over five years. I need to learn something or re-educate myself on a topic.

Here is my complete list of the books I read in 2007:

1) Eragon by Christopher Paolini
2) Eldest by Christopher Paolini
3) Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
4) Captive of my Desires by Johanna Lindsey
5) The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
6) The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
7) Baby Proof by Emily Giffin
8) The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
9) Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
10) The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
11) Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
12) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
13) Being Committed by Anna Maxted
14) The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty by Julia Flynn Siler
15) A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
16) The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
17) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
18) Manhunting by Jennifer Cruise
19) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
20) Heartburn by Nora Ephron
21) I am American (And so Can You!) by Stephen Colbert

Here is my list from 2006

1) The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
2) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostava
3) The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
4) Something Blue by Emily Giffin
5) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
6) Marley and Me by John Grogan
7) The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
8) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
9) The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld
10) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
11) From Baghdad with Love by Lt. Col Jay Kopelmen

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Year That was 2007

Another year has come and gone and I cannot believe how fast this year has gone by. Life seems to get faster as I get older and I’m always struggling to play catch up. In a blink of an eye, December is over and I am staring at a brand new year. So let me sit and look back at the year that was 2007.

January: This year I decided to go with a theme instead of a resolution and my theme was to be open to new things. I don’t really believe I fully embraced the whole theme, but I did find myself saying “Yes” to things I normally wouldn’t do. I tried not to let the monotony of my life bore me or bring me down, and I found ways to keep myself busy.

One of them was beginning the house hunt, which I’ll touch upon later and the other was my goal to read 20 books, which I’ll go into further detail in another post.

I also got to go to Vegas for work where I did more partying than actual paying attention in meetings.

February: I turned 27 this month and as always let everyone know what special holiday it was. This year was low-key compared to years past; I didn’t need all the hoopla and it just shows that I’m getting older. Besides, 27 sounds like such a yucky number, no reason to get all excited for it.

I also went to North Carolina for a nice fun weekend.

March: I finally got my ass out to California to visit my brother. It has been three or four years since I was last out there and probably a year or so since I had last seen him. I had a blasty blast out there. I went skiing up in Lake Tahoe, visited the Redwood Forest, and spent a lot of quality time with my brother and his fiancĂ©. Since we live on different coasts, we don’t see each other often and it was nice to hang out with him and catch up. Hopefully he’ll make a visit out here in 2008.

April: Comcast is the devil! And I bitched and moaned about it for days on end (geez, you’d think my life was over, actually those were the worst moments of my life ever!)

My cousins from Thailand were visiting and my one cousin is still here living at my parents trying to get into graduate school. They always take such good care of me when I go overseas that I tried to repay the favor and took them sightseeing and shopping.

May: Was the month of two fun filled crazy weekends. In a span of two weeks I went to two weddings, a graduation, a spring fling dance, partying with the gays and white water rafting.

I have never been white water rafting before and it was exhilarating. My main goal was to stay in the raft and only fell out once, which is pretty impressive. I went with a crazy crew and to see our adventures, click here. Kudos to Kiah for setting this trip up.

My friend Gwen finally tied the knot with her boyfriend and she looked so happy and radiant. My friend Sylvia also got married and it was one huge party that I almost missed my white water rafting trip. And my friend Michelle gradated from medical school. I am so proud of her.

June: I went down to SoBe to help my dear friend Shama celebrate her birthday (Man, I did not realize how much I traveled during the 1st part of the year). My good friend Jessie was also able to join me and it was trouble all over again. We stayed out late every night drinking and dancing and it was a show. I’m so glad the three of us were able to hang out and relive our hottie days.

I also started dating Mr. Nice Guy, which was a huge step for me because normally I would’ve said no. This is me trying to work on my New Year’s theme.

July: The final chapter in the Harry Potter series was released and for a week my life stopped. J.K. Rowling is a true artist and never before have I been so engrossed in a book. I barely got any sleep during that week because I could not wait to find out the fate of Mr. Potter and friends. I’ll say it again, if you’ve never read one, seriously go to your library and start reading.

I attempted to put my va-jay-jay on lockdown and failed miserably. I swear, I’m such a man at times.

The Nice Guy and me didn’t work out. We are good friends now and will meet up for dinners or go out to the movies. It’s very nice and there are times when I wish I felt more, but know that he deserves a hell of a lot better than me.

August: Was a very hard month on me. And while this month was emotionally draining, I really learned a lot about myself and grew a lot because of it. This month was a huge defining point for me and I think I’m a better person after my experiences.

My biggest goal for 2007 was to purchase my own home. The housing bubble began to deflate and I felt financially secure enough to start looking. Finding a house to me I could equate with how some girls wanted to find a husband. I felt like this was the next step in my life.

The first weekend I went out, I found my dream home! It was this adorable one-bedroom condo in the same community as my best friend. I fell in love with it the minute I walked in and put a contract on it the same day. I could not believe how lucky I was and that my dream was finally coming true.

I slowly started to prepare myself for the move and then fate threw me a wicked curve ball. And just like that, I lost my dream home. I was completely devastated, angry and betrayed. I could not believe this was happening to me and so close to my settlement date.

I was very bitter for the next couple of days, but instead of letting this incident bring me down or allowing my negativity to get the better of me, I recognized that things happen for a reason and that you can’t let it get the best of you. I could’ve let this unfortunate affair destroy me, but instead I sucked it up, pouted for a few days, and got right back out there and continued my search for my real dream home.

In addition to all the madness, one of my closest friends Kiah moved to the West Coast. I am so proud of her and admire and respect her greatly for following through with her dreams and ambitions. I can’t wait to see you in February in keeping with our tradition of celebrating our birthdays.

September: In a moment of carelessness, I backed into my neighbor’s car and my poor Gus Fiona had a dented bottom. I truly have no one else to blame but myself for not paying attention. She was so close to making it a full year unscathed.

I also got suckered into taking care of my friend’s cat, Peppers. I have decided that Mr. Weasley is enough cat for me and that I’m not quite ready to be Crazy Cat Lady.

October: After a month and a half of diligent searching, I finally found my true new home! I was a bit nervous and weary about the home buying process, but my realtor was phenomenal and really worked with me to find exactly what I was looking for. She made the experience very enjoyable and I’m super doper happy with my home.

I continued a destructive pattern/behavior with a boy. I was slowly reaching my breaking point with him and knew that something would have to change. But could I really do it?

November: I moved into my new place and have been loving it ever since. I was meant to be here. I still need to paint the walls, but there is no rush. It will happen in due time. Unfortunately my pet frog Dropsy didn’t survive the move.

I let go of my addiction with the boy. It truly was an addiction. I was addicted to him, the way he made me feel, the pain, the pleasure, the rush, the excitement, and the chase. I really believe this is the end. His pull isn’t as strong as it used to be and I don’t miss him the way I used to.

My family and I had to put my baby boy Puppy to sleep. My little guy, God, I still miss him. My parent’s house seems quieter and emptier without my rambunctious Fat Dog greeting me. He had so much life and love to give. I wish I could kiss him and hold him just one more time.

December: Since I traveled so much during the first half of the year, I needed one more getaway. My friends and I went to the Big Apple, where we mainly drank our nights away. It was a hella of a good time.

Wow, looking back 2007 was a huge year for me. I did not realize how much fun I had and how much I actually did this year. From buying a new home, to all my trips, I think I gave myself a new outlook on life. Overall the year was amazing and I really learned to adjust my attitude and perspective on life. I learned to enjoy the good and the bad and that life goes on whether you want it to or not and only you can control your outlook. I take it back; I do believe I followed through on my New Year’s theme.