Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I am Thunderbird, hear me roar

I've been a little on the outs with J.K. Rowling lately because she made The Cursed Child a play instead of a book. But her awesome sense of humor and continued dedication to the wizarding world make it hard to stay mad at her. And today she gave Potterheads a treat I wasn't expecting—a Sorting for Ilvermorny, the American Hogwarts!

First of all, go read the history of Ilvermorny. It's great. Some things I found especially interesting:
  • The school was founded by a descendent of Slytherin and a Muggle (okay, fine, No-Maj)
  • Students don't get a wand until they get to school, and they're not allowed to take wands home until they come of age (17, just like in the UK)
  • Ilvermorny has four houses, all named after magical creatures
  • Enchanted carvings representing each house select the students they want in their house. If more than one carving claims a student, the student decides which house to join.
  • Slytherin's wand was buried for reasons, and within a year a snakewood tree had grown in its place, which has powerful medicinal properties. I love this part: "This tree seemed testament to the fact that Slytherin's wand, like his scattered descendants, encompassed both noble and ignoble. The very best of him seemed to have migrated to America."

Seriously, read the whole thing. It's a delight.

Now, about the houses. I was a little worried they'd be copycats of the Hogwarts houses, especially since Isolt, one of the founders, based much of the school on what she had heard about Hogwarts while living in Ireland (she later escaped from her crazy-evil aunt aboard the Mayflower). But the houses don't match up—the best comparison I can come up with is that America has two Gryffindor houses, a Ravenclaw/Slytherin combo, and a sort-of Hufflepuff. Still, that's not really an accurate description, so just leave the Hogwarts houses in the UK and the Ilvermorny houses in the US.

A quick introduction to the magical creatures the houses are named after:
  • Horned Serpent—a "great horned river serpent with a jewel set into its forehead"
  • Pukwudgie—"a short, grey-faced, large-eared creature"
  • Thunderbird—a creature that "can create storms as it flies"
  • Wampus—"a magical, panther-like creature that is fast, strong and almost impossible to kill"

And there's also this tidbit:
It is sometimes said of the Ilvermorny houses that they represent the whole witch or wizard: the mind is represented by Horned Serpent; the body, Wampus; the heart, Pukwudgie and the soul, Thunderbird. Others say that Horned Serpent favours scholars, Wampus, warriors, Pukwudgie, healers and Thunderbird, adventurers. 

I originally thought I would be a Horned Serpent; it sounds like a melding of Ravenclaw and Slytherin, which is what I've often considered myself to be. But at the end of my sorting, it was the Thunderbird that flapped its wings.

You don't need to convince me further—I love this house already. Sure, I love books and cleverness, but adventures? Those are essential to having an interesting existence. And while I value knowledge and learning above most other things, I think a person is truly defined by their individuality and beliefs rather than by what they know. I'm a proud Ravenclaw for life, but I'm liking more and more that Ilvermorny sees me as more of a soulful adventurer; I'd rather have that on my headstone than "intellectual."

Now, it's your turn! Where does the American Hogwarts sort you?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

When your days are three hours longer

This week I've been putting one of my most useful college skills to good use: forcing my brain to work without luxuries like sleep. My sleep volume has been on a slow, steady decline since March, and it's to the point now that sometimes falling asleep before 2:00 a.m. is just impossible.

It's incredibly frustrating, especially if you succumb to the temptation to keep checking the clock. (You're just torturing yourself, Pal.) I often wish that since I'm forced to stay awake that I at least had a cool reason for it, like I'm fighting a forest fire or doing something really fun and nerdy or coming up with brilliant solutions to the world's problems. But no, it's always just "I'm not tired," even if I've employed all of my tricks to stimulate sleep.

But insomnia has some nice advantages, once you stop trying to fight it. For instance, how many times have you wished you had more hours in the day? Even if it was just for some much-needed relaxation?

Insomnia can make that dream come true.

As a kid, I loved staying up late. The thrill of skirting the rules—even if they were just boring bedtime rules—made any activity more fun at night, whether it was playing cards, watching a movie, or jumping on the trampoline. The risk that your dad (on your mom's orders, of course) would come down the stairs and scare you half to death with his exasperated, sleepy threats was worth it because it added just a little extra flavor to your fun. (Though I do feel guilty now about depriving my parents of sleep—sorry guys! I'm sure I'll get my just reward some day.)

And that childlike excitement hasn't left me entirely—I still love the occasional late weeknight movie and marathon reading session. While all the bozos around me are effortlessly snoozing away, I'm having fun, and there's something wonderfully satisfying about enjoying the extra night hours only you were given.

The fun comes with a cost, of course, but I've always appreciated fun more when it wasn't free.