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.