Tuesday, May 29, 2012

As an Astronaut

Under the lotus moon, holes like seeds, we flew. We had nothing to our name, we had no one left to blame. We had nothing left to do. So we flew.
And it was lonely, and we cried, and we fought, and we lied, to each other and to ourselves. But we had nothing left to hide. Lies can only get you so far. You need truth and stories to get you the rest of the way to the moon.
Sometimes, when we stared into the dark, we swore we could see the horizon and the rising sun. But there was no horizon, and there would never be one again. Not while we flew. Never again.


[via text]

Me: Do you think fishnets with shorts would break the dress code?
A: Umm how many dollar bills* between the hem and knee? That'd be the only problem I think.
Me: 1.2 dollar bills. I wonder if the fishnets make it less, er, violationy.
A: Probably not. But I think you'd be fine.
Me: Oh, good. Because I like fishnets.
A: You're fantastic.
Me: No, your face is fantastic.
A: :-P Well I want to eat your face.
Me: Friendship may be two pals munching on a well-cooked face together, but it says in the fine print that it has to be the face of a third party.
A: Fine. We can eat Grace's face then.
Me: Yay! Graceface is my favorite!
A: Me too! This will be a good meal then. We'll make a toast to friendship.
Me: To the power of friendship! *clink*
A: *clink*

*Our dress code consists of a handy rule of thumb - shorts and skirts must be no shorter than the length of the a dollar bill above the knee, and straps must be at least the width of a dollar bill.

Monday, May 28, 2012


I doubt anyone has read back this far (no one blames you) but a while ago, I made a post about fire gods and included Loki as one. I don't know if this is painfully obvious at all, but Loki is one of my favorite mythological characters. And with me, mythological characters are my equivalent of superheroes/athletes. Maybe I should make baseball cards or comic books for them.
(Though they already made a comic book out of the Norse stuff. ...it's called Thor.)
Anyway, I watched Thor recently (I'm slow at watching movies. I still haven't seen The Avengers or The Hunger Games or the recent Sherlock episodes). As you may guess from the pantheon, Loki is a character in this movie, and, not shockingly, because trickster gods always have to be the main villains, Loki is the main villain. This in and of itself was fairly distressing because Loki's not really the main villain type. He's sort of a chaotic neutral, bordering on chaotic evil. Oftentimes he's a complete douche bag, but sometimes he works with the Aesir and Odin in a non-murderous way. He's also wicked clever, if not always good at not pissing people off.
In the movie, the writers did manage to get one thing right: he's a bit of a misfit that no one likes. That's about it. In the movie, he's the main villain. He wears a stupid douche bag hat. Instead of disliking him or anything, the other characters just ignore him, which I think removes a lot of potential sympathy for the guy. Then he thinks up a crazy harebrained scheme that involves alienating his friends/family/colleages? and culminates in not working even a little. Then he dangles off of a cliff, which is something villains should really never do, and then proceeds to fall into the void. (You know, I have no idea how they got him back in The Avengers. I should really watch that).

See? Douche bag hat.

Basically, he makes me very sad. Granted, the movie did a few things acceptably. The actor was very good. Loki was Odin's adopted relative, and a frost giant (or something. I forget what it is in mythology). He's kind of a douche bag. But in the end, none of this makes up for the fact that he has a stupid hat, can't plan or manipulate or lie to save his life (all kind of defining trickster god characteristics, in my opinion), and he dangles off of cliffs. NEVER DANGLE OFF OF CLIFFS. What, is it too realistic or complex to have a villain be executed, or imprisoned, or run off? Why must villains always fall off of cliffs?! This is a problem, writers! You need to think of a resolution in which the villain does not fall off of a cliff!

Anyway, done ranting for a while. (At least until I see The Avengers.) And, fortunately, I doubt anyone will make a movie about Lucifer or Prometheus soon (also great mythological characters), so I'm good. There is a movie called Prometheus coming out soon, but I think that's about aliens.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Things I Do in French Class

Sing about money:

And talk about the etymological root for "un velo" (bicycle): velocipede.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried is a novel by Tim O'Brien and is a collection of stories about the Vietnam War. It is also the book we have been reading in English. I quite like it, and I think it's very well done, despite the fact that I also find it wildly depressing. The main thing I had a problem with was his discussion of "true war stories" and how a story doesn't have to actually have happened to be true. I find this irritating, and would prefer him to say that he writes stories about true war, rather than true war stories. If a story didn't happen, it is not a true story. However, a story can contain truths without it being true. There is a distinct difference.
At any rate, our assignment was to write a piece discussing the things we as students carry in our lives (physical and figurative), in a similar manner to how Tim O'Brien writes about what soldiers carry. Here is my response to that prompt. My opinion is that it turned out well enough.

I am a scholar.
I carry pens perpetually. For taking notes, of course, so I can study them later. I am a scholar. I carry a black notebook, too, for taking notes. Notes are important. Who knows all the things we would forget if we did not write them down? Some say the printed word created civilization. I like civilization. It's a very good environment for writing things down.
Once in a younger day I wrote everything down: comings and goings and doings and it was so terribly boring. It was a mistake. It took pages and pages to write down all of the tripe. I learned my lesson, though. Now I am certain to write only the important things, such as what I think the important things are.
I am a scholar, so I carry books: heavy books, light books, bound books, unbound books. I study them. It is my job. It is necessary.
I study them, these books and paper and words, glue and paper and black stains. These mere dark materials make such great knowledge. They press the world into the page. They're ideas in a tangible form. Miraculous, they are. Brilliant. Who could resist examining such works, such masterpieces, such beautiful prisons for ideas? It's glorious! Of course I study them. I need to figure out how they work!

I am a weaver.
I am a weaver, so I carry yarn, and thread, and needles. I sew, and knit, and weave, because I am a weaver, and I create. I raise dimensions; I take string and make a gown; I take sentences and make a story. I weave. I write.
I carry pens. Perpetually. For telling stories, of course. So you can read them later. Because I am a writer. Because I am a weaver. Because stories need to be told. Or, rather, I need to tell them. Writing a story is a bit like knitting. There are many stitches and many rows, but you can only craft them all one at a time. It's laborious, but the tapestry at the end is a fine thing...
I was floundering over one piece, something that should have been straightforward but was not. I ended up with my head on my desk in the puddle of lamplight. Frustrated with the piece and with myself, I turned to a friend for help. What she said, though, was not what I wanted to hear. She told me to just finish the thing. Good or bad didn't matter, but I should just plow through and end it.
I was frustrated. I couldn't “just finish” a thing. I wanted it to be good! No, I wanted it to be perfect. It was a piece of art, and I so wanted it to be something I could look upon fondly. “I did well there, so I did.” My friend was right, though. Sometimes one must work through a story, like one might crochet for three hours straight to make a hat for a friend's birthday or a Christmas scarf. Sometimes there's a deadline, and you have to finish. The work may not be your best, but you can't unravel the entire blanket because of some snarls at the beginning.

I am an enigma.
I wear many hats. I am more likely to watch than to speak.
I have friends, but I fear we are strangers. Or half-strangers. (Which side is the stranger, I certainly cannot tell).
I have friends, and though I fear we are strangers, at times they understand me better than I think. It's always a startling revelation when one matter-of-factly spouts a truth that you thought was deep and secret. Or when one stops their day to help you put dandelions in the holes of a street sign. It's always a startling revelation that you are less different than you suppose.

I worry.
Perhaps this is the heaviest thing I carry, worry. Like a small goblin-child, seated upon your shoulders. But you cannot throw him off. He's a mere child, after all. He would get hurt, and he holds on so tightly. You must watch yourself, and lift your foot for another step even when it seems too heavy to bear.
I worry.
Perhaps this is the longest thing, worry. Like a grandfather clock, ticking away the hours, days, years. It chimes irregularly, and you look up. You hear the dong, dong, dong of time passing by and think, Oh my. There's so much I haven't done. I don't have nearly enough time. You throw yourself into your work with all fervency and haste, but it's never enough. How many have died content? Who hasn't had regrets on their death bed? You work as hard as you can, but a lifetime is never enough.
I worry that there's not enough time.

I am a watcher.
I hold detached amusement, and interest, too. Oh, this shall be interesting, how will it pan out? Those silly children, playing their games, getting hurt. Silly rabbit. When will they learn? When will it finally hit them? I would be sad for them, if it weren't so...funny.

I am a player.
I play the game. It's a large game, and you play, too. We all play. We all have roles, we all know the rules, and we all pretend it's not a game. It's a fun game, sometimes. It's a scary game. Sometimes.
At nighttime with my head on the table, I was told it was a game. I was told that life is all a game and if you want to get anywhere you have to suck it up and play. It is a fact of life, like death and taxes, and you can never stop. I was terrified. I had seen this thought before, but coming from someone else, it struck a chord. Someone else thought it was a game, and wasn't troubled by it. They saw it as a fact of life, not something to resent and fear.
Life is a game, but it's a game we make. We make the rules, so it is acceptable that we have this children's game to make sense of the world and hold the darkness at bay. We forget that it is a game, but sometimes, that's okay. The fact that it's a game does not negate the truth of it. The fact that it's a game does not make it any less real, or less powerful, or less important. Just because it's a game...doesn't mean we shouldn't play along.
Everyone is always looking for truth. Me, I love truth! But, sometimes, it's okay to pretend.
Just not all of the time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Just a brief blurb here on the subject of comments:

I love them! They make me feel special! They let me pretend that people actually read my blog, and I'm not just  another person blathering on in the endless blathersphere that is the internet! So feel free to write a note on something you like. Just play nice, and everyone will be so, so happy.


P.S. Someone mentioned to me that comments by registered members weren't showing up... and I've looked into this, and I have absolutely no idea why this is happening! =D I've tried to adjust the settings, but nothing appears to be working (or even relevant to the issue...). If it persists I'll see if I can contact the Blogger people and wheedle an answer out of them. In the meantime, is it possible to comment anonymously and just add your name afterward? =D Thank you for being marvelous!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


As you know, I've been making a dress for the past few months in preparation for prom. I finally finished it last Wednesday, two days before prom itself! That was cutting it close, I am quite aware, but not nearly as close as my other friends who also made unique prom apparel. One friend made a scale mail vest and another a periodic table dress, and both of their projects were only completed the afternoon of prom. So really, I was way ahead.

My dress was modeled after flapper dresses and insanity. The form was a strapped dress with a semi-fitted top and middle, and was tight to the knees where there was about a foot of flaring fabric. There was also a ribbon in the middle, and the overall effect was something of a twenties-type dress. However, I constructed the entire thing out of various patchwork pieces of fabric in a semi-coherent amalgamation of awesome. The end result is a little like me: completely insane but pretty damn gorgeous.

Actually this is an awful picture of me, but I'm not vain. (The correct term is "prideful", thanks.)
I made it using my own pattern that I made by measuring myself. Learning to read a pattern would be annoying and, in my opinion, would be a little like following a recipe. I prefer being my own pastry chef, thanks. Granted, the end result would probably be nicer if I had followed a legitimate pattern, but also, that would negate the fun learning experience which this was. And I am a huge fan of learning.
I don't think they make patterns for a dress like this, either.
Granted, I made some errors along the way, such as not measuring everything perfectly and in fact making it too long and then having to chop off part of the top and sew in darts so it fit properly and also screwing up and causing awkward bunchy spots to be made in the back. That wasn't so successful. The gestalt is decent, though, so I'm willing to let it slide in the name of learning. LEARNING! YAY! (Also I ran out of fabric for the frill on the bottom so one side is frilled and one side isn't but it's okay because you can't see it unless you're looking for it.)
(It's called Frankendress for a reason).

Other things: You may notice in the photo - I am wearing the pointiest pair of shoes known to human. Every single one of my friends thinks they are hideous except me, but that's okay. I like them, and they can pass as either witch shoes or retro heels, so really they're incredibly multifunctional if you're someone who dresses like either a witch or a flapper, which I do. Useful, right?!

I think my next project is going to be a green dress for a friend or maybe a red dress for me...I'll have to confer and see. Stay tuned for more exciting installments of "Madeleine Makes Weird Things And Talks About Them With Too Many Exclamation Points!"

Monday, May 7, 2012

If I Were Drafted

As an English assignment, we were told to imagine that we were drafted into a war, and write about what we would do. We were to pretend that women could be drafted into combat positions (which they should be in real life) and that the imaginary war was in Iran. I thought this was an interesting supposition piece, and I feel that I did a good job of articulating the gist of my personal morality.

"If I Were Drafted"

Iran is a messy place. Like many Middle Eastern countries, it is a mass of political turmoil, social polarization, and imminent militarism. Hypothetically, if a war were to be fought there by an invading power, it would be vicious, bloody, and not easily ended. Easily we could be looking at another Afghanistan or Iraq, with abundant wasted money, collateral damage, and myriad vague enemies. Regardless of how ostensibly necessary or prudent a war would be, it would be a debacle. Soldiers and innocents would die by the droves; villages would be blown to bits; politicians would sling mud and nothing would get fixed. It would be a war, in short, where it would be very difficult to take sides.

Let's assume I get a letter in the mail. It's a standard envelope, very boring and bureaucratic looking, but on the inside – well. That's a different story. On the inside is a draft letter, summoning me to go fight in this war – this ambiguous, tumultuous war. It might as well have been a letter bomb, for the damage it does. The funny thing is, though, that there's no decision to make. My life near certainly be utterly destroyed from then on out. The question is not whether I go to the draft board or not, but where will I run.
I might be a coward. I might be a bad person, letting another mother's child die to protect America. One thing I am certain of, however, is that I cannot be a soldier. A simple truth. Not only would I be a terrible soldier physically, but mentally, I could not do it. I would be totally ineffectual at best and dead at the worst.
So I would run. It would be for the best.

I am not a soldier.
Looking only at life in boot camp, not even in a combat situation, I would be a miserable soldier. I am not physically strong, nor agile, nor inspired. I startle easily at loud noises. I like to read books, write stories, and knit scarves. I don't know anything about weaponry, or more importantly, people. Worse, I can't take orders. A great portion of my identity is based on being different and marching to my own idiomatic drum. In the military, any modes of expression would be severely limited, which would make things singularly miserable for me. It is part of my identity to stand out, directly in contrast to military uniformity. I also take great pride in thinking for myself and coming to my own conclusions. This cognitive habit is an obvious detriment in any highly structured environment with mandatory deference to authority. If my inability to follow orders didn't get me punished, it could get me killed. Questioning authority is not something smiled upon in the military, and questioning authority is something I do automatically.
I don't want to die. I don't fear death, but I do fear dying. Death is oblivion, but dying is full of pain and regrets and wasted potential. I am blessed and cursed with a cognizance of my own mortality, and am thus increasingly aware of how little time I have left and how much I have to do in that small window. I haven't planned my life (that would be dull and impractical) but I've tried to do away with silly mental restrictions and do what I need to do to make my life a good one. I have big dreams and not a lot of time. A reduction of that time...would be less than ideal.
Furthermore, I love to be alive. It may not always be a picnic, and sometimes you get drafted into the military, but it's so much better than being dead. Death is nothing. Life is everything, the good and the bad, and in this place, the good is pretty great. There are picnics and good books and good people and knitting and warm houses and cats and springtime, and it is beautiful. I love it here, on this tiny planet, in this great cosmos, with some mostly decent people. The place may need some fixing up, but as fixer-uppers go, it's pretty darn nice.
America's a great place, but I'm not willing to throw my life away for its sake. I'm not willing to die for that idea. ...Truthfully, I'm not willing to die at all.
The trouble with war, and I mean any war, not even a war openly stated to be ambiguous, is that if one takes a modicum of effort to examine each side thoroughly, it becomes increasingly hard to tell which side you should be fighting on. Both sides inevitably have similar rationalizations, grievances, and arguments. If one takes a second to think from the vantage of a soldier of the other side, one may realize that one is not different at all. Some people are able to rationalize this away with the usual trite jingoism - “I'm an American, and we stick up for our own,” or “I'm fighting to preserve democracy!” - but I have never been one for patriotism. It scares me. In elementary school, I always worried that the teachers had us say the pledge to brainwash us. In eighth grade, I read The Wave for an English assignment and realized just how easily ideas can spread. Inevitably, I couldn't help but see the parallels between the novel and the world, and ever since I've been even warier of patriotism. Therefore, I don't think even cerebrally I could find a way to dehumanize the enemy enough to rationalize killing them. In my head, they'll always be just another human, regardless of race or nationality or greater moral cause. Frankly, I do not want to think any other way.
The act of killing also does not fit into my (albeit arbitrary) morality. My code of ethics is crafted around making the world a better place for myself and others, with “do unto others” as the rule of thumb. Basically, the ultimate goal of my actions and life is to improve human quality of life in a tangible way, be it by doing charity work, or furthering scientific research, or just making art. Killing people does not fit in this plan. “Shouldn't we all be working to fight death?” the thought goes. Of course, there is the greater moral question of sacrificing the few for the many, but in a war as contrived as this, it is impossible to justify this sacrifice. Our time, resources, and lives would be better spent on peace efforts. This death and destruction is another step backward for the world, and I do not want to be part of that.
Of course, if I were in a war, there's a high probability that I would have to kill people. War is death, as they say, and if I were ever in a combat situation, I would have to kill someone. That would be bad. For whatever reason or cause the action was committed, I would still be left with some kind of psychological scarring. There are three ways that I could mentally cope with this action, and all are singularly terrifying. The first is that I accept what I did and wallow in shame, guilt, and self-loathing. I've explained that I don't want to rationalize away my atrocious action, and if I were to be morally straight and honest with myself, I would hate myself. Human empathy and societal conscience could not allow for this action to be accepted. Objectively or emotionally, there is no silver lining to death. If I were to judge myself honestly by my personal ethics and code of conduct*, I would not accept this behavior from myself, and would fall into spirals of guilt. This has the potential to cause some serious psychological trauma.
The second option would eliminate this guilt, but is no more desirable. If I were to force myself to stop caring about human life or morality, I would be able to feel better about killing people. However, there are some obvious issues with this proposition, namely that abandoning morals and respect for human life is bad. Furthermore, and in this option we're assuming that I was internally logically consistent, I would likely apply this amorality across the board. If it's okay to shoot an Iranian, say, why is it not okay to shoot an American? I likely wouldn't follow through on this reasoning without a cause, but such moral apathy would make me a much more unpleasant, misanthropic person.
The last option is superficially better but, ultimately, the more terrifying of the three. This option is that I accept what I did, and then repress the emotions and rationalize the action away. While this may be healthier and more beneficial long term, it brings with it some scary implications. It requires intellectual dishonesty. As a skeptic, I place a lot of value on being honest with myself and removing my own delusions. Purposefully lying to myself with some rationalization, like, “They were enemies, ergo they were bad,” or “They were a threat to America,” or any kind of thought to make them seem less human or to make the action acceptable, is repugnant to me. Even so, I've spent so long trying to prevent self-deception that I don't even know if I could hide what I'd done from myself. My deeply-ingrained thought patterns would almost definitely weed out such lies, and would have to be actively repressed. This course of action is not only repellent to my values, but not necessarily possible.
I cannot kill people. I will not kill people.

I am a bad soldier. I proudly march out of step, I do not believe what they say, I do not want to die, and I cannot kill. I would be a detriment and a liability to any troop, and I would be singularly miserable in military life. No one would benefit. Everyone would suffer.
I may be a bad person, a coward, and a bad American, but it is certain that I am a bad soldier. So I would run. I would tell my parents (one of whom would be disappointed, and the other accepting) and say good-bye. I would pack a bag, and I would flee the country. Skip over the border to Canada, try not to think of everything I left behind. Perhaps I could hike up to Ottawa and find work in writing, or retail, or something. I could make a decent salary, find an apartment, if I'm lucky. Gone, of course, are dreams of university or getting a PhD. Gone is science and success and fixing the world. No, I'll just live a quiet, bitter life in exile. That's fine, America. I'll get over it eventually. Canadians are very friendly, and I didn't need those dreams anyway.
Nice job breaking it, hero.

*This isn't relevant in context, but I would like to clarify that I do not hate soldiers, or regard them as evil or immoral based on their job description (true acts of barbarity are different from standard combat). My personal code of ethics is not the same for others, and I could support a soldier who killed an enemy combatant because they believed it was the right thing to do, or because they had no choice. I merely expect higher standards from myself, as someone who values honesty with oneself, uniform or merit-based empathy, and pacifism.  

So, what did you think? Does my writing need work? Did I express myself clearly? And what do you think about my code of ethics? Is it internally logically consistent? Are there any glaring flaws or situations in which it is not applicable? Feedback is good! 
For those who have not been able to post comments - I have no idea why! Can you comment as anonymous until I figure it out? :D Thank you for being amazing. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

School has been interesting lately.

Alternate title: Everything that L says, ever.

Discussing the caning of Charles Sumner in Congress by Preston Brooks (1857):
Teacher: Imagine if our Congress was heated like that today!
Me: Well, a lot more people would watch C-span.

A: Can you have fish at college?
L: I think you can have any pet that you can hold underwater for 10 minutes and have it still be alive.

Teacher: I don't think the pass-fail line should be 65%. In the real world, 65% correctness doesn't cut it.
L: I only have 65% of my fingers!

In Biology, A was working with pliers and cut her hand and washed it out.
A: I haven't done that in weeks!
L: Done what, washed your hands?

Also in Biology:
L: Carnivorous plants mind their own business until something gets all up in their business and then they eat it.

G: World War I was caused by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.
A: Franz.
G: Okay, Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Teacher: Like the band?