Friday, July 31, 2015

35 ways to celebrate Harry Potter's birthday

I often celebrate Harry Potter-related dates more enthusiastically than I do Muggle holidays. Halloween is a day to mourn James and Lily, not go to wild parties. April Fools' Day calls for birthday cake commemorating Fred and George's birth, not pulling obnoxious pranks on our coworkers.

So Harry Potter's birthday, in my opinion, should be an international holiday. And here are 35 ways to celebrate it (in honor of Harry's 35th birthday).

1. Don't go to work.

2. Go to Harry Potter World.

3. Eat at the Three Broomsticks.

4. Drink frozen butterbeer until you either die from a brain freeze or go off on a sugar high.

5. Then eat a chocolate frog.

6. Actually, eat lots of chocolate. There are Dementors out there.

7. Write an article about someone, Rita Skeeter style.

8. Or, hand-write a letter to someone you haven't seen in a while. 

9. Play a game of Quidditch.

10. Orchestrate your own Triwizard Tournament.

11. Catch up on Pottermore.

12. Read as many pages of the Harry Potter books as you can.

13. Or, watch as many of the movies as you can in fast motion.

14. Take a bath with a giant golden egg.

15. Take a nap in a cupboard, preferably one under the stairs.

16. Walk up to someone and say, "I see thestrals."

17. Show off your House pride.

18. Or, have a Sorting ceremony.

19. Find someone who hasn't read Harry Potter (an arduous task) and convince them to read the books. You'll change their life.

20. Wear mis-matched socks.

21. Visit Platform 9 3/4. That's in London.

22. Dress up as your favorite Harry Potter character, even if it's the Whomping Willow. Especially if it's the Whomping Willow.

23. Take your wands off your display case and have a duel with someone.

24. Wish J.K. Rowling a happy birthday.

25. Send your favorite teacher some crystallized pineapple.

26. Look something up in the library instead of on the internet.

27. Every time someone tells you to do something, say "My father will hear about this."

28. Play the Harry Potter trivia game you made.

29. Pretend you're Arthur Weasley and get excited about rubber ducks and escalators (I mean, escapaders).

30. Tell Microsoft to stop underlining Harry Potter terms like Patronus and Dementor.

31. Write an essay about why Muggles need electricity.

32. If you haven't already, contemplate on what your Boggart or Patronus would be.

33. Refer to every girl's bathroom as the Chamber of Secrets.

34. Say "Expelliarmus" every time someone challenges you in any way.

35. But most importantly, get into mischief.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Everything your English teacher never told you

I feel like half my job as an editor is expunging grammar rules taught by English teachers who never bothered to read a usage manual written after 1820. Kids get to college knowing their teachers' grammar peeves by heart, but with little knowledge on how to write a thorough essay.

But that's a topic for another day . . .

In the freelance realm especially, people often come back to me with comments like, "But wait—I was taught that this was wrong."

Well, I'm here to tell you what your English teachers likely didn't:

  • It's okay to end a sentence with a preposition.
  • It's okay to split an infinitive.
  • It's okay to start a sentence with a conjunction.
  • You are probably capitalizing too much.
  • Just use the singular they—those who are against it are losing the battle. 
  • Ain't is too a word. (Although you probably shouldn't use it in anything remotely formal—the prejudice against this word is still very strong.)
  • Language changes. It's not the end of the world.

The English language is nonsensical a lot of the time, which is why I refrain from grammar scolding. But lately, it's been the incorrectly taught rules that people stubbornly cling to that make me want to throw small objects and punch desks.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Those summer nights

The scorching summer I feared has arrived. Utah's drought-bred plants fight feebly against the unrelenting sunlight. The bad air dulls the green foliage May's rain gifted us with. Every day I consider wearing shorts to work. Two nights this week my AC stopped working.

And July is just getting started. It all makes me want to cry.

But I'm determined to not allow the Sun-Dementor to suck out my happiness. I can enjoy summer, as long as I keep happy thoughts prepared.

And most of those happy thoughts come from summer nights. Oh, those summer nights—home to some of my favorite things.

To begin with, there's a positive to not being able to sleep: extra reading time. When it was too hot to sleep, I took solace in the fact that I could make some serious headway on the stack of library books I picked up last week.

I recommend reading a book set in Alaska. It's like taking a cold shower, only you don't have to get wet. [Update: my apartment managers finally took my complaints about my AC seriously—only took them three years, geez—and fixed the AC for reals and replaced the thermostat with one I can actually read. Last night I was so excited I put a blanket back on my bed.]

But there's so much more to summer nights than sleep attempts. Like evening walks. I have to keep postponing them later and later to avoid yucky temperatures (I'd have to wait until 2:00 a.m. if I wanted truly pleasant weather), but the wait is worth it.

Because there's so much to look at and enjoy.

And the setting sun revives more than just my energy.

Speaking of the setting sun, it does really cool things to clouds when it goes down for the night.

Can you tell the difference between the air quality in Elk Ridge . . .

. . . and the Salt Lake Valley?

Yeah, there's another reason not to live in the city.

You don't have to be on your own two legs to enjoy a summer evening, though. Driving with all four windows down is another delightful way to enjoy them, even if you're spitting hair out of your mouth half the time. The crazy hair contributes to the fun, I promise. (Don't worry—I didn't take these pictures.)

And of course, there's also star-gazing, softball games, and summer rain.

Just don't make me go outside during the day.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's me, the content-aholic

Today I realized that I could easily consume enough worth-my-time content to fill a 40-hour work week. I have my blogs and email subscriptions. I subscribe to more podcasts than I have time to listen to. I follow several news sites. My magazines are taking over my kitchen table. And don't forget, I read books (just finished book #38 of the year last night).

And the crazy thing is, I'm always on the lookout for more stuff to read. I think I might have A Condition.

I like to tell myself that it's an addiction to learning and knowledge, not a chronic problem that will eventually be attributed to the millennial generation. It stems from the same impulse that sent me to grad school—I want to know all the things. (Although I can do without the math and science things.) A story about beekeeping? Gimme. A biographical sketch of Audrey Hepburn? I want. Musings on language? Can't get enough of it. 7 Tips to Better Sleep that's obviously clickbait? Fine, I'll click on it and read it when I'm bored.

This barrage of delightful information might be one of the reasons I'm so worn out on Fridays, and want nothing more than to watch mindless television for seven hours, followed up by lots and lots of sleep.

I've considered cutting down on my content consumption, but I can't do it in good conscience. I don't know all the things yet.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Photo challenge: It's all about the baby smiles

Day 10: Smile. This is the first time this little guy smiled for me. I think I'm in love.

Day 11: Books. My Harry Potter books, from favorite to least favorite.

Day 12: Where you sleep. These days even one blanket is too many.

Day 13: Numbers. I never realized house numbers had so much detail.

Day 14: Texture. Trees are so interesting.

Day 15: Sunlight. I don't mind sunlight so much when the sun is going down.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Photo challenge: Feet, mountains, and other colorful things

Taking pictures for the sake of taking pictures has changed the way I see the world. I see beauty in everything: cloud formations, imperfect flower petals, rocks littering the path in front of me. Seeing the world through a photographer's eye can easily take you down the dangerous path of distracted living, but when you find the right balance it's hard to not marvel at everything around you.

Day 5: In your closet. I didn't used to have this many pairs of shoes.

Day 6: Sunset. Thou shalt take all thy walks as the sun sets.

Day 7: Feet. I think we all agree that baby feet are the best. Surprisingly hard to photograph, though.

Day 8: Panorama. The mountains surrounding Elk Ridge are also the best.

Day 9: Food. The only thing better than a lovely dinner is a lovely dessert to round off the evening.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Photo challenge: Part 1

As usually happens when I get a new toy, my excitement for my new camera wore off after a few months. But recently I realized that while I may have the basics down, I never dabbled into the advanced settings of my camera.

So I put together a 30-day photo challenge to help rekindle my interest in the fascinating art of photography. It's been a fun experiment so far.

Day 1: Self-portrait. Photography has given me a new respect for that ball of fire in the sky, even though it's the cause of heat misery and thereby sleep deprivation.

Day 2: Clouds. Thursday was an awesome day for clouds. I wandered around with my camera aimed at the sky for quite a while; my neighbors probably thought I was a freak. It was really hard picking just one to include in this post, but eventually vivid colors won out.

Day 3: Water. I wanted to capture water in motion, so my brilliant plan was to make Shannan throw pitchers of water above her head. I have a feeling she'll be the guinea pig a lot during this challenge.

Day 4: Anything with wheels. This is my neighbors' bike. Judging by the millennia of dust coating the seat, tires, and handlebars, it doesn't get used much.