Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reading Harry Potter With My Mom: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Recently, my mom decided to let me read my Harry Potter books to her. These are some of my favorite books of all time and getting to finally share them with Mom made me extremely happy. We decided to read each book and then watch the movie. And of course we started with Sorcerer's Stone.

In which Hagrid was Scottish. At least he was at first. You may not realize this, but a Scottish accent is particularly hard to maintain. For me, it some time slipped to Russian and I was like, "Wait, we're not at Durmstrangs here."

What ruddy kind of accent is that?

It's also hard to flip between speaking normally and figuring out what Hagrid is supposed to sound like. At points he was Cockney and even this odd place between American, English, and Irish. Near the end I was like, "Oh god, Hagrid, please stop talking. I love you, but I can't figure you out." Mom rather enjoyed the odd variety of accents Hagrid used.

I think we can all agree that Ollivander is just a little creepy, at least when you meet him in Sorcerer's Stone. Apparently he is no longer a maker of fine wands but a maker of fine wines. Hey, you let a wine sit for 2000+ years, it's probably going to be...whatever it is you want to get from wines when they sit for a long time (can you tell I have no clue what happens with wine?)

Ollivanders Wand Shop-Sign.jpg
Doesn't this look like the label that would be on a fine vintage?

I am not accustomed to reading out loud, so sometimes my tongue will get tied. This is happens also because I am a fast reader, which means when I read I don't read each individual word, as you have to when you read aloud. Which is what led to Ron's arms not windmilling but treadmilling.

How do you translate that into your arms?

And then we came to Lord Voldemort. And I really like my Voldemort voice. It's kind of creepy and thready and perfect for him without a body. But, I am not a man, nor do I have a low voice. So when he starts to yell, the voice tries to growl...and then I start choking. I can either be Voldemort or yell but I can't do both. Maybe Voldemort's voice box was damaged when he LOST HIS FREAKIN' BODY.

I'm so confused. How will I my followers listen if I never speak above a harsh whisper?

We just watched the first movie this afternoon. And Mom was struck by how much was left out of the movie, how much info they never talk about. I have clearly seen this movie too many times because I was sitting there quoting it under my breath. And I noticed for the first time that Fred and George actually do chant "We've got Potter" in the Sorting scene. You just don't hear it because of the din and instead have to read their lips.

Honestly woman, you need to pay closer attention.

I can't wait for Mom to get to know Neville. Because really, I have come to love him and Mom doesn't quite understand why yet. Which is why we are reading these books (well, a side reason. Mainly we're reading them because I love them and Mom said I could). Tomorrow we begin Chamber of Secrets.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Adventures in Cooking: How Not To Make Minute Rice

In my house now, we have a rotation of who cooks dinner. My parents cook two nights, my sister and her boyfriend cook two nights, and I cook two nights, with the guidance of my mom. On Friday, everyone fends for themselves. It's a pretty good system.

Since I have Mom helping me, I am slowly learning how to cook things more complicated than Mac and Cheese (which tastes perfectly fine when made with lactose-free milk) and hot dogs. I was going to add spaghetti to this list, but I kind of set a noodle on fire when I made spaghetti two weeks ago.

Last week, I was making Orange Chicken from a recipe on the Food Network website. Everything was going fine, it was cooking away happily in the oven, when my sister comes home. She asks what we're having and I tell her, rather proudly, "Orange Chicken"

Lemon Chicken Breast
Basically this, but with some alterations to make it orange instead of lemon

"And what with it?" she asks. And at this question my mind stops comprehending English for a minute. What with it? What goes with chicken? What does she mean?

"Um...broccoli?" I say, drawing out the word. "Aaaand?" she asks again. This is becoming a maddening question. Mom realizes what she's asking and takes pity on me. "Oh, a starch." Right. Duh, we need rice. But rice takes forty minutes and the chicken will be done in ten. "Uh, I think we have some Minute Rice in the cupboard," Mom says.

Mwhahaha, don't I look simple? I'm gonna make you wish you used the rice cooker.

Sure enough, there's a box of Minute Rice. I pull it out and look at the side to figure out how to make it and the number of portions to make. Mom leaves me on my own to do this, mostly likely figuring, incorrectly I might add, "How can she screw this up? It's Minute Rice."

I get the water boiling, add the correct number of cups of rice, and then place a plate on top since we can't find the lid to cover it. I leave it alone to the required time. After the buzzer dings I lift the plate off and hot, water steam drips onto my leg. Probably an omen of bad things to come.

I throw the plate in the sink and look in the pot...and then call Mom over. "Something went wrong with the rice." For, instead of fluffy, perfectly cooked Minute Rice, there was instead a vat of rice that was a little...soggy. There may have even been extra liquid in the pan still.

I'm going to taunt you for the rest of your life.

Mom stares, perplexed at the rice for a moment. Then she turns to me and asks, "How much water did you use?" I look at her confused. How much water? Does it make a difference? I shurg and make the vocal equivalent of "I have no freakin' clue".

Apparently, rice is not like pasta. You can't just throw any amount of water you want in with the rice. Rice is the baking equivalent of the starch world; everything must be precise. Since I didn't measure the water, now I have really wet rice.

Which Mom valiantly tries to salvage. We put the rice in the microwave, covered, for 2 minutes. Then, we try putting it back in the microwave for another two minutes without a cover. Mom explains as the microwave whirs that the reason it doesn't matter how much water you put in with pasta is because you drain it. So, when she takes the rice out and it still looks watery, I ask, "Why don't we drain the rice?"

"I'm so mocking you right now"

So we did. Yes, I can actually say that I have drained rice in a colander. This seemed to get rid of most of the excess water. And the rice wasn't completely inedible either. But when Mom said she wasn't going to keep the leftover rice, I was the first to agree. I bet that would have been the moistest rice ever when reheated the next day though. ;)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Diversify Your Reading Challenge

So, a little while back, I found this reading challenge (and contest because you know I love books).

For this challenge, there were two categories, one for librarians (which sadly I am not) and one for bloggers and readers. For readers you were challenged to read Young Adult books that either had an LGBT character as a main character or significant side character (protagonists' best friend, love interest, etc.) or were written by a person of color or an LGBT author. One lucky person can win fabulous prizes (click on Reading Challenge at the top to see the rules of the contest)

I personally was more drawn to the LGBT side of the challenge, so that's what I focused my reading on. I read Beauty Queens by Libba Bray where one of the beauty queens is a lesbian, The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson which is about friendship and sexuality and discovering who you are and how to be that person (one of my all time favorite books), Hex Hall and Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins in which Sophie's roommate is gay, Empress of the World by Sara Ryan about a girl who falls in love with another girl at a summer program, and Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce (which I don't know if it quite works for this challenge since the gay couple aren't exactly main side characters, but I wanted to address it as well).

One of the things that really struck me about these books, especially ones where the LGBT relationship wasn't the main focus (like the Rachel Hawkins books) is that the authors write their characters like it was no big deal that they were gay. They weren't even saying, "Well this character is gay and isn't that wonderful?" They instead were saying, "Yes, this character has brown hair and is gay and has green eyes and is tall. Now moving on with the story." It was simply another character trait.

This is also something my friends (who watch much more BBC than I do) have pointed out about British TV vs American TV. If we have a LGBT character at all on American television there seems to be extra effort exerted to show that this character is just like everyone else. With British TV, they don't put in that effort; they figure everyone knows the character is like everyone else and it's just another facet of their personality.

I also noticed (just from the books I read and maybe this isn't true of all of them) that when the relationship is the focus of the book (like Bermudez Triangle and Empress of the World) the relationship doesn't work out. Why? Can't I have a sweet happy gay or lesbian story that ends well for all involved? Why can't they just end up together? And please, if you know of a book where this happens feel free to leave it in the comments. I'd love to read it.

I do want to talk about Bloodhound and Okha Soyan and Nestor Haryse. I loved how Tamora Pierce wrote this relationship. She didn't try to tell the reader that "Of course this person is gay and isn't it wonderful" and highlight that. But she didn't ignore the fact that some of her readers don't understand people who are transgender or why men can see themselves as women and have relationships with men. One of my favorite quotes in this whole book is Okha explaining to Beka, (and I'm paraphrasing since I can't find the exact quote) "The Trickster god played a cruel trick on me, putting a woman's soul into a man's body." It's a beautiful passage with the perfect explanation (at least in my mind) of what transgender people feel in their hearts.

I really enjoyed taking on this challenge. I enjoyed the books that I read and the ideas it provoked. I really hope that through books more people can learn acceptance. Books are one of the best ways that people can be introduced to ideas other than their own and begin to change their minds toward the better. If you understand how someone thinks, you can better see their side of an argument and understand why they feel what they feel. From there it's not a hard leap to humanity being just a little less cruel.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

To Have A Home

Yes, this is another post about Harry Potter and yes, I haven't posted for a while and this is not about history. I need ideas people! What do you want to know about? I almost feel like I'm just writing this for myself, and if that's the case I will most likely just keep rambling on about Harry Potter.

So, unless you are just really out of touch with social media, you've probably heard someone mention the site Pottermore within the last few days.

Pottermore. We're big on the owls

This site is an interactive way to read the Harry Potter books. You'll get sorted into a house, buy a wand, earn house points. It sounds like it is going to be absolutely fantastic and pretty much the entire fandom is dancing with impatience to be let in. Which is where the Magic Quill comes in.

7 attempts at insanity

What is the Magic Quill you ask (unless you just read the banner in which case you already know. Too bad, I'm still going to explain)? The Magic Quill in the books is a quill that writes down the names of every magical child born (within the Hogwarts school district I'm assuming. Although you could always get a boundary exception and go to Drumstrang or Beauxbatons ;) ) so that when that child reaches eleven the deputy headmaster/headmistress can send out the Hogwarts letters.

In Pottermore, the quill presents everyone with an opportunity to enter Pottermore early. 1 million people will get to beta test the site and to choose those people is the Magical Quill challenge. At a random time of day, between July 31st and August 6th a clue with be released, a question that you must find the answer to. Once you have the answer you add it to the URL If you are correct, you get sent to a screen where you have to catch the magic quill.

Where the hell is that damn quill? (This is the thought that will go through your mind at 2 in the morning when you finally get here)

Thankfully, the quill glows, but it also runs away so you may have to chase it a little (and do not panic if it goes off screen. It'll come back). When you manage to pin it down, you get a Congratulations and are told to begin your journey and fill out some information (name, date of birthday, email, etc.) The last question asked is this:

What kind of question is that?

Personally when I got to this point I found myself thinking, "What kind of fan has been up until one in the morning and hasn't seen all the movies and read all the books?" Because yes, by this time I had stayed up until 1:30AM, scoured my copy of Sorcerer's Stone for the answer (The question being "How many types of owls are on the sign for Eyelops Owl Empourium?") and chase a quill around a screen with a laptop track pad. Why would I do all that if I hadn't read all the books and seen all the movies? That would make me crazy instead of simply a zealous fan.

But I also managed to get in on the first day! Which means I haven't had to go through the insanity of staying up until 2 and 3AM (oh yes, clue one released at 1, clue 2 at 2 and clue 3 at 3. This only works on the West Coast...but I love it) to get the clue last night or the night before. And I got my verification email within fifteen minutes, which is NOT what has happened for others. Some have had to wait an entire day for their verification.

So I get to beta test it early! My name is DreamPotion56. You get your name by answering the registration questions and then picking from five generated usernames. I was almost ShadowGoblet206, but I liked the idea of a dream potion and it seemed to fit me best. I can't wait to meet up with my friends who've also wrangled early entrance and get sorted. Party in the common rooms anyone? I'll bring the Red Vines ;)