Friday, May 16, 2014

10 Things You May Not Have Known: Part Two

Image courtesy of Cutes Paw
The other day I was scrolling through some of my old blog posts, and stumbled upon one I did a couple months ago. It was called 10 Things You May Not Have Known + Poverty, and it's probably my favorite post on this blog. Since I enjoyed writing it so much, I figured I'd make a part two, so without further ado, here's another set of ten things you may not have known.

1. All US presidents, dead or alive, have worn glasses (just not necessarily in public).
2. Duck's quacks don't echo
3. Switzerland has four official languages: French, German, Italian, and Romansh.
4. Penguin's propose by presenting their partners with a pebble. They also stay together forever.
5. Winston Churchill was born in the women's bathroom.
6. The French allow their people to marry the dead.
7. The world's most practiced religion is Christianity.
8. Obama is left handed (apparently left-handed people are smarter, which makes sense). 
9. A larger percentage of North America is wilderness than Africa. 
10. Coconut oil reduces seizures in children with epilepsy. 

So what's the purpose of all these random facts? No, it's not to bore you to death. Actually, the opposite. 

I want to make the point that everyone is smart in their own way. Some people may know lots of information about penguins. Other people may be really good at understanding people. No matter what, it’s pointless to criticize people for not knowing certain things. I know a fair amount about history and politics (in other words, I’m “book” smart). However, I know next to nothing about horses and texting slang (these are just examples). A couple months ago my friend texted me GTG and I had to Google what it meant (for the record, it means “go to go”). 

However, because I love academia, I do well in school. Majority of my teachers like me (or at least they act like they do). On the other hand, some of the kids in my school know a lot about skiing, but hate academia, so they don’t do as well in school. That doesn’t mean they’re destined to a life of homelessness when they’re older, like the school system thinks. They just learn differently. 

So next time you (or I) call someone “dumb”, think about all of the great things and knowledge you’re not seeing and reconsider. 

Credit:
France Fun Facts

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Happiness for All

Image courtesy of Kevin and Amanda
Guess what the happiest country in the world is?

Answer: Denmark (what is it with these Scandinavian countries being such great places to live?)

Despite paying insane amounts of money in taxes (think 60%), Danes are very happy people. Here's why:

1. It's a great place to be a mother (or a father). Families receive a total of 52 weeks parental leave. Although 18 weeks of that is allocated to the mother, and two weeks is allocated to the father, the rest of the time is left for Danish families to use as they need. And get this: families who adopt get 48 weeks of parental leave! On top of that, Denmark has inexpensive (or free, depending on your income) childcare.

2. Danish citizens have free access to health care.

3. They get their exercise in through biking. A report shows that half of the Danish population commutes to school or work by biking. Half. Bet they have a low obesity rate.

4. Danish citizens feel a responsibility to be good people. They believe in health care for all and caring for the poor.

5. Danish citizens are very involved in the government. In the recent elections, almost 90% of them voted! Meanwhile, less than 60% of Americans vote.

(I found all information above here)

After looking at the list above, I think America needs a reform. Although I'm a bit iffy about giving up 60% of my families income in taxes, I don't think America would have to do that in order to have a government like this. If everybody in America (with exceptions for those earning below the poverty level) was made to pay 20-25% in taxes (including you, Donald Trump), we could have a government with free health care and long maternity/paternity leaves. All the extra money coming in from billionaires (who are currently paying ~5%), would make up for the fact we're not paying as big a percent.

I realize a lot of people don't want to give up their money. I get that. But I still believe that we should give to the poor and support them. If you were homeless and poor on the streets, you would hope that your fellow citizens would help you out. If I was poor, I would not want to be in America. Let's change that so America becomes a happy place for everybody.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Death Row

Thanks to Stella the Star for giving me this idea. 
Image courtesy of Cardinal Health

Today we're going to be talking about the death penalty. Yup, the death penalty. Happy times. 

In case you didn't know, here are some "fun" facts about the law. 

1. It exists in 32 states, including Utah (no surprise there), California, Florida, and Pennsylvania. 
2. According to deathpenalty.org, it "costs more to execute a person than it does to keep them in prison for life." 
3. Types of capital punishment include hanging, lethal injection, firing squad, gassing, and electrocution. 
4. The South, a region with 80% of the countries executions, has the highest murder rate in the US, although that might be due to the fact that the South is the poorest region in the country. 
5. The number one reason people are executed is murder (deathpenalty.procon.org). 

I personally ere towards the side of getting rid of the death penalty, however, I think my opinion would be different if I'd had a family member or close friend who'd been murdered.  Often times, people feel closure when the murderer of their loved one is put on death penalty and killed. However, some people don't feel that way; they believe that's it's dishonoring the memory of their loved one by killing another. 

Since their are so many pros and cons to this issue, I think the best way to lay out the facts is to list them. Here it goes: 

PROS
1. The death penalty may prevent would-be murderers from killing someone due to knowledge that the decision could cost them their life. 
2. As previously mentioned, death-row can give justice to the victim's family. 
3. Death-row not only brings justice to the victim's family, but it brings justice overall. Murders do horrible things, and deserve to be correctly punished for their actions. 

CONS
1. Death penalty trials are more expensive than keeping someone in prison for life. Some sources suggest that it could be as much as two million dollars more out of taxpayer pockets. 
2. Many question if the eighth amendment (which prevents torture) makes the death penalty illegal. A recent execution resulted in what many witnesses called an "agonizing scene." Other executions have also resulted in similar situations. 
3. There is a possibility (some statistics suggests 4%, others 12.5%), that a person on death row is found innocent. You can't bring people back from the dead, and killing an innocent person is seen 

But the overall solution to this all is... EDUCATION! People who graduate high school are significantly less likely to end up in federal prison. So by putting more money in education and encouraging kids to graduate, we keep our country safe. Yay!

Friday, April 25, 2014

We're All the Same: My Discovery That I'm Not So Different From the "Bad" Kids

The "perfect" child
Image courtesy of CNN.com
A couple things about me:
1. I am judgmental
2. I am sometimes a bit selfish

Not trying to deflect attention from my shortcomings here, but I know plenty of people have these problems. Part of it is human nature; part of it is the way society is today. But that doesn't mean you can't do anything to fix it; actually, people will respect you more if you try and work on your issues. 

The reason I'm bringing this up is because it has a lot to do with the way that we structure our schooling systems. Education today is often all about
being perfect and always arriving at the right answer. Schools praise kindness; they broadcast the ideal that not only should you be happy, smart, kind, and friendly, but that you should also be neutral and hardworking. Schools don't pay attention the fact that no one is perfect. Just because someone bullies another doesn't make them a bad person; it just means that they need work. 

I have often met children that are labeled as "bad". They do drugs, fail most of their classes, and have no respect whatsoever for their superiors. I have always been the opposite of that: little goody-two shoes who takes things way too seriously and does her homework. Judgey-judgey me doesn't really approve of those who choose to go the less conformal route. But what I've come to realize is that although I'm never going to approve of those that do drugs and flip off teachers, the "bad" kids are just like me, trying to figure out how to be a good person. And it's not fair for school's to judge them and suspend them without thinking about this is going to affect said child's whole life. Everyone has problems: some are just frowned upon more than others.

I know this post is different from the usual, but I still hope you enjoyed it.

Click here to see the article that got me thinking: Suspending Students is A Bad Idea


Friday, April 11, 2014

7 Things To Bring in Your Carry-On

1. KIND bar(s)
Image courtesy of Kind Snacks
My friend Stella recently introduced me to these and I LOVE THEM. They are so healthy and delicious- the perfect thing to pack for a trip through the sky. Also, I believe that so long as you don’t open packaged food before you reach security, you can carry it on your flight.

2. Books
I already did a post on my favorite books for travel, but I’ll just quickly mention the ones I’m bringing for this flight in particular:
Obviously I won’t be able to read all of those on the flight, so I’ll probably just keep one (or my Kindle) in my carry-on. 

3. An extra set of underwear
You never know if your flight is going to be delayed, so it’s always good to be safe. Trust me, you don’t want to get stuck in a hotel room without an extra set of underwear because the airline lost all your luggage. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. Just hopefully not to me, because I've had my fair share of delayed flights. 

4. Silly magazines
I admit, People publishes some rubbish stuff, but it can be kind of fun to leaf through the pages and discover what lie the press is making up this time.

5. A zip-up sweater
Planes are cold, but destinations are often warm. Bring a zip-up sweater for the flight to keep warm, and then take it off when you arrive at your (warm) destination. 

6. (Home)work
As much as we would all like them to, vacations don’t put a hold on (home)work. With that said, you can make your vacation more fun by getting your work out the way on the way down there. So bring it with you for a better and less stressful vacation. 

And last but not least....

7. Nail polish (a large variety)

Image courtesy Glitter and Nails
It’s super important to bring at least 30 bottles of nail polish on the plane. You never never know when your nails are going to need a little of bit of jazzing. Don’t forget the pure acetone to take it off when you get tired of the color! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Travel Tips: Aeroplane Books

If there's one thing I know about airlines, it's that sometimes they don't offer the best entertainment for non-international flights. Therefore, it's an absolute must to bring your own entertainment. Sure, you can spend your time surfing Netflix and watching Downton Abbey on your iPad, but you could also take it as an opportunity to crack open a new book. Here are my recommendations:

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
"If I’m going to be a student here, treated on equal terms, then I have to be willing to do everything that they do,” I said. “There can’t be two sets of expectations, one for them and one for me, the only girl in the class."
Image courtesy of Beauty and the Bookshelf
Set in England during the early 1900s, the novel follows a young girl named Vicky. Vicky's family is part of the upper class, so she has almost everything she could ask for. However, all Vicky wants to do is be an artist. She secretly attends art classes while at finishing school in France, and while there, poses nude. Her finishing school finds out and expels her, causing her parents to quickly try and find a new husband for their daughter. 

Just to clarify, the novel is not at all about posing nude and flashing yourself to the whole world. I was worried about that before reading it, but rest assured, the book is 100% appropriate for most age groups (probably too advanced for third graders, but not for a smart seventh grader). It's also a great novel. Many historical fiction novels are super boring and lackluster, but this one manages to be both educational and entertaining. Also, there's a bit of information about the women's suffrage movement in it, which I loved. 

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood 
“A trio of sisters will come of age, all witches. One of the sisters, who will be gifted with mind-magic, will be the most powerful witch born in centuries."
Image courtesy of Alice Marvels
 Set in an imaginative world based on the ages of the Salem witch trials, Born Wicked tells the story of three sisters: Cate, Mara, and Tess. Cate is the leader of the pack, and the main character. Her mother died when she was young and entrusted Cate with the care of her sisters. However, things are complicated because Cate and her sisters are witches, something considered evil in a society run by the Brotherhood. To complicate things even more, Cate's "choosing day" is coming up, and she must decide between joining the Sisterhood and marrying her childhood best friend... but what if she's not interested in either?

I'll admit, my synopsis is a little cheesy, but this book really is fantastic. The writing is lush, but not to the point that the book is boring, and the plot keeps at a decent pace. I really loved all the imagery in this book: the poofy dresses, tea parties, and rose gardens brought me back to the colonial era. The biggest reason that I would recommend this as a good plane read is due to the fact that the book manages to deal with more serious issues without resorting to death and destruction. The novel is more focused on the characters, plot, and scenery as opposed to the "thrill" factor. With that said, if you do decide to read the second book, be prepared for a lot more action. 

Well, I hope you enjoyed hearing me blab about my favorite books. Goodbye for now!




Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Little History Lesson

I've loved history ever since I was a little girl. My mum used to let me watch Titanic, Marie Antoinette, Elizabeth, and the Duchess (all with some scenes fast-forwarded) for  girly movie nights. After watching the movies, I would go to the library and try to find a book about the topic of the movie. It was always one of my favorite things to do. So today, I figured it would be fun to do a little history lesson on my favorite eras in history.

Image courtesy of Movie Mail, Quo Vadis
Ancient Rome.

Fate will find a way”- Virgil, Roman Poet

What People Think: WAR! Murder! Assassination! And oh, let's get drunk while we do it.
Reality: While the Romans were very much so into war and conquering, their society was so much more than that. For starters they had very strong religious beliefs. The Romans were what we would consider polytheistic, meaning they believed in many gods. There was Jupiter and Mars; Venus and Minerva; and lastly, Pluto (of course the Romans had way, way more gods than this, I just can’t possibly list them all).  Most of you probably know of these gods interesting moral standards, so I’m not going to delve into any of that. 

Also interesting about Rome is their rigid class system. Back in those days it was near impossible to move up in the class system, even through marriage (often times, restrictions were place on who you could marry). At the top of this system the emperors and Patricians sat. They were the super rich, and spent most of their time listening to poetry, hanging out in their villas, etc. Below them were the Plebeians. Today they’d be consider blue-collar workers, but back then you called them Plebeians. At the very bottom were the slaves, and hopefully you’re smart enough to figure out what life was like for them. 

Image courtesy of Les Femmes Velours
The French Revolution & Marie Antoinette 

“Great and memorable night, we wept and hugged one another. What a nation! What glory! What an honour to be French!” Ernest-Francois Duquesnoy on August 4th 1789 

What People Think: People go starving. A lady says: “Let them eat cake!”
Reality: Contrary to popular belief, Marie Antoinette was not a cold-hearted devil queen. Born into the Habsburg family (a.k.a people who ruled most of Europe until WWI), the French queen was married by 15 and crowned at 18. She was known for her extravagant spending habits (she bought over 300 dresses a year), and was reviled by the people. However, Marie Antoinette was also a compassionate person. She funded and oversaw the education of a poor boy as well as tended to an injured peasant, something most nobility wouldn't dare do. 

Marie Antoinette, in my opinion, is a victim of history. Despite her relative ignorance in state affairs, she was blamed for the debt issues in France. Often slandered by papers as an "Austrian whore", Marie Antoinette was depicted as doing everything possible to bring on the downfall of France, including vetoing tax acts made to improve the overtaxation of the poor. In many ways, this bad press was the reason she lost her life on the guillotine in 1793.

Image courtesy of Confessions of a Ci-Devant
Versailles
Oh, and by the way, Marie Antoinette never said "Let them eat cake!"

Want more?
History.com Marie Antoinette (highly recommend!)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pumpkin Cupcakes: A How To

As most people know, I like talking about my opinions (which generally contradict others). But after last week's super serious controversial post, I figured I'd write about something lighter: baking. As I mentioned when I first started this blog, I love to bake. It's so calming and peaceful, and I never get the chance to do it! So after I finished up all my Friday errands, to the kitchen it was!

Today I'm going to be making my favorite recipe of all time: Pumpkin Cupcakes. I originally found this essay on the Food Network for a cooking class at school. We were being forced to make recipe with pumpkins in it. Originally, I balked at the idea. Pumpkins? Yuck! However, after searching everywhere  for a good pumpkin recipe, I found this one. Originally they were pumpkin bars, but I made them as cupcakes because they're easier to eat. I've made these in many different climates and altitudes and they've always turned out amazingly. Everyone enjoys them, even pumpkin haters (like me). Another great thing is most of the ingredients are easily found around the house. 

Here's what you'll need (edited from Paula Deen's original): 
  • Four eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar (code for table sugar)
  • 15 ounces of canned pumpkin (you might have to by more than two cans of pumpkin, as they generally come in 8 ounce cans). 
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ~1 cup of water (this is just a starting point, I add more or less depending on the thickness). 
  • Cupcake holders
  • Cupcake baking tray(s)
And for the yummy delicious icing...
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese (I like the Philadelphia brand)
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 2 cups of powdered sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

First things first, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I know it's lame, and sometimes I forget, but life is always easier with a preheated oven. 

Now you can start by mixing together all your "wet" ingredients (the pumpkin as well as the sugar, oil, and eggs). Then add your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and powder, ground cinnamon, and salt). You will need an electric mixer to do this. This is the least interesting part of this recipe in my opinion. The pumpkin doesn't smell too good, either. 
                                   

The next step is to to organize the yummy cakes into cupcake holders. I bought the super fancy cupcake holders from Whole Foods (they're called tulip cupcake holders). Since it's Whole Foods, I shouldn't have been surprised that I paid $4 for them and only got about ten. I didn't use them all for this recipe, because I like how much cupcake they can hold, but I wouldn't recommend them. They're not worth the cost. 
                                 

Let your cupcakes bathe in the oven for about 15-20 mins. Don't take them out yet though! After the 15 minute mark, I check on my cakes every five minutes. Every oven cooks differently and you don't all your hard work to go down the drain. 
                                 

Once your cupcakes are ready you can ice them. Simply mix all your icing ingredients together, and spoon it onto the cake. Perfection! 

I hope you enjoyed this post. It's a bit different from what I usually do, but I feel like it was a good break from all my political ranting. Let me know if you'd like to see more of my baking adventures!


Friday, March 14, 2014

Abortion and Rape

*Tricky subject alert*
* Also note that I refer particularly to women as the persons being raped, simply because women are the only one's who can get pregnant. However, I know that men can also be rape victims, which is another horrible, horrible subject matter for another time.

The issue of abortion has long since been controversial. Some think of it as "genocide" while others believe that it's a basic right. Recently I've discovered than some people even go so far as to say that abortion isn't okay even if the woman was raped.

Wait, what?

All opinions aside, the issue I'm going to be discussing today are about abortion and rape. Not about sad little fetuses telling their stories or the scientific evidence that fetuses aren't human. What I'm discussing today is really a separate issue altogether. It's about ABORTION and RAPE. It's about women's rights and the people trying to interfere with them.
Image courtesy of Claire Conner
 I don't think that it's fair for men to go around saying raped women shouldn't be allowed to get an abortion, when they'll never have to make a decision like that. Rape is a crime. The woman is the victim. And although you can make the argument that you shouldn't "make more violence with violence", the woman's right's trump the baby's rights. Sure, I don't believe in aborting a fetus after the first trimester unless it's for medical reasons (if you going to have an abortion, hurry along with it!), but fetuses aren't full, living, breathing humans. Raped women, on the other hand, are.
Image courtesy of MS Magazine
The poster above says that the Nazis allowed abortion and that when the Allies found out, they treated it as a war crime. Knowing the Nazis, it's likely that they raped women and then forced them to have an abortion. After all, the "option" was only given to Jews and Eastern Europeans. That's what the issue of abortion and rape is really all about: choice. If you are raped, become pregnant, and want to keep the baby, great for you! But if you don't want to keep the baby, then you should have the option to abort. The pro-choice argument just makes more sense to me in this case. 

Image courtesy of CDN
Don't agree with this. 

Of course I'm not stupid enough to believe that the pro choice argument is the only "good" one out there. If you disagree, feel free to sound of in the comments.

Some more interesting articles
Oprah, Raped and Pregnant at 14, Drank Laundry Detergent to Terminate the Pregnancy
Debate: Rape and Abortion
Congressman: If Abortion is Legal, Men Should Be Allowed to Rape Women Apology



Friday, March 7, 2014

A Friday in the Life of Alexia

I've been thinking of doing this post for WEEKS now, and I've only just gotten around to it. Basically, the premise is that I'm going to show you what a day in my life looks like, and compare it to that of others around the world. Please note that I'm trying to include snippets of other people's lives that relate to mine, but sometimes I can't find one that's 100% perfect. Also, this is a rough idea of what my day looks like. I might've fudged some details (like times). 

Friday
6:17 AM
Breakfast
Dad wakes me up in the mornings, as I am always too sleepy to force myself out of bed. I brush my teeth, do my hair (quickly, I tend to not draw out my hair-care experience like my mum), and throw on the first comfortable thing I see in my closet. After I pack my stuff, I trot upstairs for my oatmeal breakfast. As I'm sitting at the breakfast table I think back on a video I'd watched the night before about the Russians marching into Ukraine. The entire thing seems so remote to me, yet it isn't happening all too far away. Could I do something about Ukraine?

"Everyone loathes getting up in the morning. However, I am not as fussy about it as my brother, who, despite being in medical school, still refuses to set his alarm and depends on the entire household to wake him." - Mahnoor S, Pakistan. 
7:35-9:05 AM
English
First period I have English class. We spend most of the period discussing To Kill a Mockingbird. In some ways I find it kind of strange that we're tiptoeing around the issue of racism like church mice. I wonder if things would be different if some of us were African American. Then I notice- not one of us is. What is it about race that causes the Honors English class to be filled with white children, whereas "regular" English is primarily made of a mix of ethnic groups? 

"Most citizens of Argentina aged 15 or older can read and write. The country has one of the better educated populations in Latin America. Indeed, education is prized as one of the most important assets people can have."- Country Reports Argentina

9:10-12:20 AM
Math & Human Geography
Second and third periods I have Math and Geography. Math goes by as usual. We are given a partner and a booklet to fill out. Then my math teacher reviews it with us. Human Geography is a little different, as most of our class period is spent discussing the previous night's reading. We always get a little off topic and end up talking about world issues instead. 
This little guy sits on my bed all day!


"Generally, classes are held in classrooms, and occasionally outside for Physical Education and sporting activities, Natural Science laboratories, and Technology. The classes are taught by lecture, and are the only source of information for students who are financially unable to purchase the text"- Marguerite, Foumban


12:20 PM
Lunch!
Self-explanatory. 

4:00- 7:00 PM
Hospital
From 4-7 I do volunteer work at my local hospital with my friend Stella. Usually I go to track before hand, but today I had to go home a little earlier. We ferry food trays from the kitchen to patients, manage the front desk and gift shop, and talk about silly things. I really enjoy my work at the hospital because it means that I get to hang out with Stella and eat lots of good food. But seriously, I do enjoy interacting with patients. Most of them are really nice and bring a smile to my face. 

"After school and on non-school days, we work with the family on domestic and field tasks. With my classmates, we study in the school's library. We study our lessons alone or in a group. We do our homework. Sometimes we take long walks." - Marguerite, Foumban

Well, that's it for today! Sorry today's post is a little longer than usual, I just wanted to be able to flesh out the differences and similarities between my day and that of anothers elsewhere. 





Friday, February 28, 2014

Washington D.C. and Tenure

Image courtesy of CNN, School of Thoughts
Recently my parents and I got talking about tenure and the not-so-recent-but-still-relevant Washington D.C. bill. As far as I'm concerned, the creator of this bill is a genius. I don't know all the ins and outs of the bill, but from what I understand it gives teachers two career paths: a lower salary and tenure or a much higher salary (based on student performance) and no tenure. Tenure basically makes it impossible to fire a teacher unless they either sexually abuse multiple students turn into Jack the Ripper. Both of those are high unlikely, making it, like I said, almost impossible to fire a tenured teacher.

Tenure is an issue for two reasons: first, because it makes teachers on tenure feel like they can get away with anything, and secondly, because it means that when budgets get cut, tenured teachers are kept around, and better teachers are cut. Case in point: one of my favorite teachers this year is fairly new. (S)he teaches us a lot, and is decently nice. However, if it came down to it s(he) would get fired before another teacher who has a history of verbal abuse with students. The only reason for this is tenure. 

Another case in point: a couple years ago I had a teacher who wore very inappropriate clothing to  school. Every day she would come to school in mini skirts and low cut tops. Not only that, but she had a poster up in her room about weight loss. Weight loss.  At the time I was fairly young, so didn’t pay much attention to it, but thinking back on it, that poster could’ve been bad for many young girls self esteem. I don’t know if it has since disappeared from her room, but I can’t believe that no one mentioned it earlier, and discussed it with her. 

I like the Washington D.C. proposal because it prevents teachers from striking by not getting rid of tenure completely, and solves the issue of teachers enot getting paid enough. Because honestly, fifty-thousand dollars a year is nothing for the job teachers have. Many bright intellectuals would love to become teachers, but avoid the job because it doesn’t pay as much as it should. 


Anyways, those are just my thoughts on the topic. Feel free to sound off in the comments! 

Read more:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Books!

As I'm sure I've said before, I've loved books ever since I was a little girl. I haven't done a full post on my favorite books yet, so I figured I might as well do one today. 

The Grisha Trilogy 

Image courtesy of Alexa Loves Books
I love how creepy cool these books are. You never know if a character is good or bad, even the main character (Alina). The basic summary of these books are that there are people with magical powers called Grisha. There are a couple types of Grisha, each with different abilities. Alina, however, is special because she's a Sun Summoner, the only one who can get rid of a horrible area called the Fold that's been separating the kingdom for years. Of course, things don't go as planned, and Alina deals with some evil people. 


Image courtesy of Mundie Kids
This was the last book I read in 2013, and it was one of my favorites. The story is very cute, and although it's not worthy of a Book Oscar (is there such a thing?), it does make for a really fun read. The book follows two girls, Elara and Princess Wilha. While Elara is a orphaned servant, Princess Wilha is born into royalty. However, Princess Wilha is always forced to wear a mask, and many whisper it's due to her unbearable ugliness, which she can't see when she looks in the mirror. I can't say too much without giving it away, but there's lots of mystery, political intrigue, and fancy masks. 


Image courtesy of Laurdes

The best way to describe these books is futuristic fairy tales. The series follows the story of Cinder, a cyborg living in New Beijing. In New Beijing, and all over the planet, there has been an outbreak of letumosis, a disease no one has survived. While this horrible disease is going on, Earthen leaders (who work together) have been trying to stop war against the Lunars, and their horrible queen Levana. Each book focuses on a new heroine, while still focusing on Cinder's story. The next book is due out winter of 2015. 

I hope you enjoyed learning about my favorite books, and hopefully, you'll decide to read one yourself!
* Links (on titles) go to author websites! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Growing Up


As most of you know, I grew up in a small rural town called Hong Kong (population: 7,000,000). I left fairly young, but I've still managed to remember a lot about the experience. So here I am, finally writing a post about it. I figure the best way to talk about this is in tidbits. Here it goes:

A Bit of Background
When I tell most people where I was born I usually get two responses: "Why you no look Asian?" and "Do yah speak China?". As far as the first question is concerned, I don't look Asian because my parents were Caucasian expats from England and Australia. So, as genetics would tell you, I came out looking Caucasian, not Asian. Although, my mum did once mistake an Asian baby for me, but that's another story. As far as the second question is concerned, no I don't speak Chinese. Since Hong Kong was a British colony until the end of the twentieth century, most people I grew up around spoke English, not Chinese, causing my inability to speak "China"

Me and my Filipino amah (nanny)


No Chinese In School
I attended two schools in Hong Kong: an Australian one (to satisfy dear old Dad) and a British one (to satisfy my proper tea-drinking mother). Because the British school wanted the Chinese students to learn English, they weren't allowed to speak Chinese. Although Hong Kong isn't Communist like the rest of China, this strikes me as a very Communist thing to do, and, not to sound patriotic, makes me appreciate the freedom of speech rights I have in America.

Me flying first class on Cathay Pacific, an HK airline my dad flys for


Banana Trees
While China seems to have a knack for eradicating nature, it's still apparent when you visit that it is a beautiful country. Growing up, I remember being surrounded by banana trees, roosters, and lush gardens. I also remember the beautiful cobblestone markets and the occasional breathtaking beach (although, if you plan on going to Hong Kong, don't plan it as a beach vacation. Most of the beaches are disgusting, as it is custom in China to throw all your trash, sewage, and shopping carts into the sea. Nothing against the Chinese, but most of urban China is like this.) Point is, China can be a beautiful place, if you know where to look.

Image courtesy of Garden of Eden


Pacific Place
Pacific Place: a giant mall filled with every store imagined. I consider it responsible for my existence, as my parents met in a taxi que outside of Pacific Place. Also, I consider the bookstore there responsible for my love of books, as I spent a lot of time there buying Rainbow Magic books.

Me kissing my baby brother


There you have it: a snapshot into my life in Hong Kong. My friend Liz also lived in Hong Kong when she was older, so if you want to see what it was like for her click  here. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In Which I Give Some Advice on Doing Well in School

Image courtesy of Lily Pultizer
Tip One: Get a Planner

Honestly, I don't know where I would be without my beloved planner. It keeps track of all my information & community service hours, reminds me what tests I have and when, and lets me easily plan my extracurriculars. I use the Lily Pulitzer planners (pictured above), however, you don't need to buy a fancy planner in order to get the benefits. A simple one dollar notebook will do (just be sure to write dates on the pages!). 

Tip 2: Cram

You shouldn't be cramming every night (if you do, it's a bad habit, get rid of it). However, sometimes, cramming is necessary. If teachers are throwing multiple tests at you everyday, it's hard to study in advance for a test on Friday when you have one on Tuesday you need to study for. It's better to try and learn the material for Tuesday's test as best you can, and then move onto studying for Friday's test. 

Tip 3: Read, Read, Read

Image courtesy of Solidarity Rising Book Drive
I love, love, love, love (need I go on?) to read. It's my all time favorite hobby. However, reading isn't just a hobby, it's a learning tool. Not only will reading teach you to become a better writer, but it improves your memory and makes you smarter. Even better? You don't necessarily have to read non-fiction to get something out of the experience. Reading fiction gives you the exact same benefits. 

And if you don't know what to read, here are some of my favorites:

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell (just started this- great nonfiction!)
Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (cute fantasy for all ages)
Cinder by Marissa Meyer (my favorite sci-fi)
Legend by Marie Lu ( good for boys & girls)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Anne Barrows and Mary Ann Schaffer (WWII book, good for adults and teens) 
These Broken Stars by Amy Kaufman and Megan Spooner (advertised as "Titanic in space") 

Tip 4: Ask Questions

Fine, maybe I ask a little too many questions, but I find it helps me learn. By having the teacher go in depth about concepts I don't understand, I'm able to better fully understand the material, and do better on the test. 

Tip 5: The Internet is Your Bestie

Image courtesy of CGP Grey
When I don't understand a concept and don't have time to go and talk to my teacher about it, I use Google as my teacher. YouTube especially has some great videos that explain most concepts for high school math, science, and history. My favorite channels are CGP Grey and Crash Course- I find they explain concepts better than most teachers! 

I hope you enjoyed these tips! I find them to be very helpful; however, don't feel the need to follow all of them. Find what works for you and stick with it. 

Find more tips here. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Look at the World's Best Education Systems

Image courtesy of NCEE

I've always been fascinated with the lives of people from around the globe. After seeing Time magazine's Hungry Planet, I thought it might be fun to do something similar. Today I will show you how education looks around the world.


Finland
Population: 5 million
GDP per capita: $46, 178

Image courtesy of In Stash
While the United States and China push their students overboard with grades, excess homework, and long hours, Finland has been working on devising an education that makes their kids smarter and happier. Recently ranked the best education system in the world, Finnish primary school students get seventy-five minutes of recess and very little homework. All Finnish teachers must complete a masters and are given the same status as doctors and lawyers. And they don't focus on following a national curriculum; teachers are allowed to teach the class as they see fit. Many people are now pushing for a similar program in the US, and you can see why.

South Korea
Population: 50 million
GDP per capita: $22,590


Image courtesy of Dalian News
Until Finland took away the first place prize, South Korea had the world's best education system, but for different reasons than Finland. The students work long hours and have little play time. While they manage to garner high results, it's at a cost. Recent reports show that suicide is one of the leading causes of death in South Korea. Many public officials are now starting to question the education system that has worked for them for so long.

Take Hye-Min Park as an example. She goes to school from 8am-4pm, heads home for a quick snack, and then attends a "hagwon" school from 6-9pm, followed by two hours of self-study. Although she says that she is very stressed, she believes this is the only option for her in order to achieve her goal of becoming a teacher. Her mother, while upset her daughter has to go through this, says that she supports her daughter's decision. After all, it's the only way to the top... for now.


Shanghai
Image courtesy of Beauty Lounge Denver
Population: 23 million
GDP per capita: 85,033

Shanghai and Korea both follow the "zombie" model for education: work hard, sleep little. In Shanghai, children attend public school for nine hours. Most everything they learn is factual and the education system allows little room for creativity. However, Shanghai was the top scorer on the international standardized test; meanwhile, the US lagged behind.


Interesting Videos/Articles
South Korea College Entrance Exams
The Four Million Dollar Teacher
South Korea Full Story
Interesting Facts About Finland's Education
Shanghai: Tests, Tests, Tests 
Note: I found most of my information in the links above, however, not all my sources are linked.