Portsmouth, NH | Durham, NH
Artsy, College, Uncategorized

Hermione Granger and Me: A Love Story

Bushy-haired know-it-all. I’m not sure I’ve ever identified with a phrase more.

If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, this next paragraph has a lot of references, so bear with me. (I’m convinced the chemistry in your brain is imbalanced, but just bear with me.)

Hermione Granger is a badass. First off, the girl’s a genius. Without her, Harry and Ron would probably still be stuck in the Devil’s Snare from Sorcerer’s Stone, and Voldemort would be killing Muggles and Cruciatus-ing good guys until the cows came home. (Even if Harry had somehow weaseled out of the Devil’s Snare, he never could’ve beaten the Basilisk without Hermione’s clue. Or saved Buckbeak without her Time Turner. Or figured out where all the Horcruxes were without her research. And he definitely wouldn’t have remembered to pack his underpants for that Horcrux camping trip.) In addition to being the smartest witch of her age, Hermione’s not afraid to advocate for minority rights– go house elves!– and to top it all off, she’s Muggle-born. Hermione belongs to a race that the darkest wizard in history is actively trying to eliminate from the planet, but she’s too busy planning his destruction to really be bothered.

So if you’re not a HP fan, thanks for sticking with me there, that was a lot of fangirl-ing. But all of that was important in leading you to my next point: Hermione and I are soul mates.

We have a lot in common, most obviously, a head of hair which cannot be tamed. Hermione’s is most often described as “bushy” while I prefer to think of mine as “voluminous,” but I’m willing to bet we could share hair products. Sometimes Hermione rants about house-elves, sometimes I rant about feminism– safe to say we both have a lot of opinions and can make our closest friends wish for earplugs. She’s Muggle-born, I’m half-Jewish, so both our peoples have seen some struggle. But perhaps the biggest Hermione/Hannah similarity is what I have come to refer to as bushy-haired-know-it-all-syndrome– the pathological need to answer questions in class.

In high school, I tried very hard to avoid being That Girl. You know the one. Her hand shoots up after every single question the teacher asks, she’s way too into in that book the class is reading for English, her hair looks like a rodent could’ve gotten lost in it last week– basically, Hermione Granger circa Snape’s potions class for First Years.

I was wildly unsuccessful in avoiding this reputation.

Sure, in those useless classes like Physics and Chemistry I could zone out and appear confidently disinterested and not say things that made my classmates want to shove me into a trash can. But in English, History, Sociology, Contemporary Global Studies, even my Anthropology class– you know, those practical disciplines– keeping my hand coolly by my side seemed impossible. I couldn’t pretend that I wasn’t interested in class discussions, because I was. I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know the answers to the teachers’ questions, because a lot of the time, I did. If I had a dime for every time someone’s told me, “you’re like, the only person who talks in that class,” I’d have… about four dimes.

This exact phrase (recently uttered to me in a tone that either signified relieved gratitude or barely-masked hatred) led me to realize that the bushy-haired-know-it-all-syndrome has followed me to college. If anything it’s gotten worse, because now I’m exclusively studying those topics that I find to be most interesting. I think it’s important to mention though, in a class of 20-25 enthusiastic students, I’m just one in the bunch. Contrary to what you may have gleaned from this blog, I do have social skills, and if other people raise their hands, I’ll gladly sit back and listen. But in a class of 20-25 relatively uninterested people, most of whom are only taking Lit Analysis to satisfy a GenEd requirement, I may be a little on the outspoken side. (Especially because it’s Lit Analysis. Lit Analysis is my shit.)

Here’s the thing. Hermione Granger never feels ashamed for wanting to share her opinions. Why should I? Why do so many students– in high school and in college– feel like having something to say is somehow uncool? Hermione might annoy the crap out of Ron and Harry sometimes, but that girl gets things done. The Boy Who Lived and the wizarding world at large would’ve been toast if Hermione hadn’t spent all those hours in the library poring over Hogwarts, A History. She never stops fighting for what she believes in, even if it means looking like a bushy-haired-know-it-all.

Hermione is strong, she is brave, and she doesn’t apologize for raising her hand in class. Now there’s a magic that I’d like to practice.

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Pop Culture, Uncategorized

On Reese’s Peanut butter Cups and the Zombie Apocalypse

If you have eyes, then you’ve probably noticed that Autumn is upon us here and New England. Leaves are turning bright on limbs, there are pumpkins all over the place, and copious amounts of pumpkin spice flavored things are being consumed across America. I’ve been eating a ridiculous amount of pumpkin-shaped Reese’s cups in both an attempt to be festive and a complete lack of self-control. (Why are the abnormally shaped Reese’s so much better than the normal ones? I think they might be more peanutbuttery.)

I’ve been enjoying the I really jumped the gun on this jacket weather and the excuse to eat more candy, and now I’d like to take the opportunity to talk to you about zombies. Partially because they’re spooky and Octoberish, but mostly because about twenty minutes ago I attended a lecture by the man who wrote novel-turned-Brad-Pitt-movie called World War Z.

REACTION: To be honest, the guy is a bit of a pompous windbag. But he was also impressively witty and sarcastic, and he delivered a kick-ass lecture on how to realistically survive a zombie apocalypse. His answers surprised me.

I made an earnest attempt to read World War Z, but bailed after about 100 pages when there were still no real zombies. The book was slow moving, but its concept is sort of awesome. It’s written as a series of interviews with people explaining their experiences of zombie invasions, and it focuses on the practical issues of the subject. (This is what I gleaned from my incomplete reading, so bear with me if I’m wrong,) but the book focused less on the brain-bashing of toothless gray corpses and more on the topics of welp, the world is being overrun with the undead, so we better find some drinkable water! If you’re looking for some brain-bashing and Brad Pitt, I’m told the movie is the better choice.

But when I thought about it, this guy made some good points. In the event of zombie-crisis, what would become of organized governments and societies? Would we revert back to nomadic and brutal survivalism and begin to eat each other when we ran out of food? Would even one person be dumb enough to try and eat the zombies? (I think it’d be cool to turn the tables.) Couldn’t you just pack up a bunch of stuff in a boat and camp out in the ocean for a while? Can zombies swim??

Zombie survivalist guru Max Brooks had answers for nearly all of these questions, (someone did ask if zombies farted and I was a little disappointed when the question went unanswered) and his borderline insane logic makes me want to give his novel a second try. You should too, especially if your first reaction to a zombie apocalypse would be to burst onto the streets wielding a baseball bat thinking, “I’ve seen like two episodes of The Walking Dead, I think I got this.”

I’d like to dedicate this post to my dear friend Andie, who is slaving over chocolate chip cookies right now so I could finish writing. She is fabulous.

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Academia, Uncategorized

Things to Do When You Have Too Many Things to Do

In college, and maybe in life, it seems like workloads come in waves. You’re just coasting along, eating a fair amount of cookies in the dining hall, averaging about a season of Breaking Bad a week, when suddenly you take a look at that syllabus you forgot existed. It looks like you’ve got a pretty hefty exam coming up next Monday. And that 2,000 word research paper you’ve been putting off, that’s also due Monday at midnight.

This one syllabus reminds you of those few other syllabi-things you printed out a couple weeks ago, so you figure you should probably check them too. And hey, would you look at that? An exam on everything you’ve covered in Spanish so far, next Monday.

Then you take a break from Breaking Bad to meet with your school’s Undergraduate Research Journal supervisor, who is thrilled to hear about your interest in writing an article for the journal– in fact, would you be able to have a draft in by next Monday?

So now you’re starting to panic a little bit, but it’s totally fine because your favorite class is up next, it’s mostly discussion based and a major GPA boost. Except right as you’re about to walk out the door at the end of class, your professor throws out a reminder about that reaction paper you’re supposed to have been working on. You check the syllabus (the only one you didn’t look at earlier, you figured you’d be in the clear) and realize that the reaction paper is due– you guessed it– next Monday.

This chain of events seems to happen about every 2-3 weeks. Julie and I refer to the day of impending academic doom as Hell Day, or sometimes D-Day if we’re feeling historical. Today was the Monday after Homecoming weekend, and reality bitch-slapped me so hard I may have lost a few teeth. So in honor of my own personal D-Day, I have constructed a list of things to do when you have too many things to do, from a procrastinating professional herself. Enjoy, my friends.

Check Facebook. Peruse pictures from this weekend for the 81st time. (Look how much fun I was having! Just 24 hours ago!)

 Check Tumblr. Cringe a few times. Contemplate writing a couple verses of angsty poetry.

 Get the hell off Tumblr.

 Check Twitter. Engage in witty Twitter banter with your roommate who is also procrastinating on the other side of the study lounge. Make sure everyone can tell you’re the wittier one. (Suck it, Jules.)

 Call your mom. (She doesn’t believe you’re the wittier one, but she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.)

 Dance to this song in your underwear.

 Take a walk. (Studies show that 20-30 minutes of outdoor activity can improve your ability to write papers a few hours from now.)

 Make up statistics in your head to justify the fact that you just walked circles around campus for 45 minutes in an attempt to not do your paper. (Studies show that 45 minutes is actually even more beneficial than the originally planned 20-30.)
Watch this video.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCDG4xkeUZI&w=420&h=315]

Watch that video again.
Succumb to the long list of Louis CK “Recommended For You” YouTube videos that are calling your name.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJlV49RDlLE&w=420&h=315]

Maybe check out some John Mulaney too.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYIwPu50Fic&w=560&h=315]

Meditate.
Write motivational sticky notes to yourself to put on your desk. (Never Stop Exploring. Clear Your Mind of Can’t. Today’s Soups Are Tomorrow’s Poops.)
Start your paper you idiot, next Monday is gonna be here a lot sooner than you think.

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Academia, Uncategorized

God-awful Textbooks: When to Just Skim

In high school, I considered textbooks to be the bane of my existence. They were unnecessarily large and required you to jump through all sort of hoops to keep them in “good condition”, like expertly crafting sleeves out of paper bags or scouring countless Rite Aids to find those stretchy book-sock things. Then they added a wildly disproportionate weight to your backpack despite their size. Blandly worded scoliosis.

The only upsides to these hand-me-down fountains of boredom was exploring the annotations left by those before you (I once wrote “This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince” in a chemistry book because I figured it’d be the closest I ever got to Potions class), and the fact that they were free.

In college, they’re not even free. What is this blasphemy? You have a few bleak options:

Go for convenience and buy them from your campus bookstore, but pay ridiculous sums of money for them.
Order them online after classes have started and suffer through a 3-to-five-business-day purgatory when readings are being assigned but you do not yet have the material. (This will likely be the only time all semester when you feel compelled to do reading assignments.)

I always choose door number two. I peruse websites of questionable integrity to find used books at the lowest possible rates and then wait up to two weeks for them to arrive, often more than gently used. This year I held a personal record, however. My last book to arrive was a gem entitled, Functional Anatomy of Speech, Language, and Hearing. It showed up two weeks late, didn’t have a real binding, and proudly displayed this image on the front:

When the package I knew to be this book arrived in the mail room, I waited another 3 weeks to actually retrieve it. My liberal arts-inclined brain was simply not itching to read a poorly constructed book of such science-y nature. When I did finally open it, I was struck by the preface. (I read the preface to put off reading the real book.) It provided some advice, and the advice was to “skim” rather than read the chapters, because if I tried to actually read this book, I would most definitely become overwhelmed.

I’m sure the authors were only trying to help the anatomy-challenged population, but seriously? How can you write something and then preface it with, “yeah, you probably shouldn’t read this.” I’ve taken their advice to heart, and used this textbook not for reading but for staring blankly at aerial views of the human larynx. Worth every penny.

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College, Sweaty

The Hot Girl At the Gym

I just ran a marathon on that treadmill. Okay fine, it was three miles, but still, that felt like a lot of miles. I turned the resistance up to like 10.5 for a few 2-minute intervals (is that 10.5 miles per hour, or just some mysterious treadmill unit of speed? I’ve never been completely sure) and my heart is beating so fast that I actually see the words cardiac arrest in red when I blink. I wore a grey t-shirt today; my back, stomach, and arm pits are now a charming shade of sweat-grey. I smell like the inside of the hockey bag. This is glory, my friends.

When I exit the cardio-room a few minutes later, hunched over and continuing to sweat profusely, I’m only half convinced that the threat of cardiac failure has passed. I’m almost to the ab mats (or as I like to call them, “the fab mats”) when I spot her. A majestic creature, both captivating and terrifying, scrolling through her Twitter feed between ab exercises.

The Hot Girl At The Gym.

(Please note, the following description does not refer to any individual in particular, but rather the archetype of Hot Girls At Gyms Everywhere.)

She wears calf-length leggings. Brightly colored sneakers, probably Nike cross-trainers, make those few inches of skin between shoe and legging look unbelievably tan. Maybe it’s just the neon shoe/tight pants combination, but she might have the best legs I’ve ever seen. How does someone get legs like that? Does she do squats in her sleep? And her ass, my goodness– I don’t care if you’re male or female, straight, gay, bisexual, asexual… you’d agree, her ass is a thing of beauty. Her shiny ponytail, perfectly situated, sits behind a colorful headband of the Lululemon variety. I would bet my life– okay, maybe not my life, but my entire 5-pound bag of M&Ms at least– that she just ran more than three miles on the treadmill, and her shirt shows no sign of sweat stains. She moves gracefully from Twitter to a perfect front bridge. I’m not sure why, but I’m sure that if I were to sniff her, she’d smell like Febreeze Spring Renewal.

Several thoughts hit me at once.

I’d like to punch her in her beautiful face.

I’d like to be her best friend.

I’d just like to be her. Maybe we could pull a Freaky Friday kind of deal?

I’m really hungry.

I feel bad about the wanting to punch her in the face thing, I take that back. She’s probably a nice gal.

I wonder if she farts.

So, I’d like to backtrack a little. This scenario, the meeting of The Hot Girl at the Gym, is something you’ve probably experienced before, especially if you use your campus athletic facilities on a regular basis. (The Hot Guy at the Gym is an equally disorienting experience, but that’s a post for another time.) My campus is notoriously homogeneous, so maybe our Hot Girls look a little different from your Hot Girls, but I have to imagine that every campus has their own population of this mysterious specimen: attractive, aloof, and utterly untouchable.

But here’s the thing. In my whirlwind of holy shit that person is more attractive than I could ever dream of being thoughts, it never really occurred to me that The Hot Girl at the Gym is just that– a person. A living, breathing person with dreams and insecurities just like the rest of us. (And she farts, she absolutely farts. No one can live without farting. I googled it.) The Hot Girl is a college student too; maybe she has a test tomorrow that she’s freaking out about, or a meeting with her advisor next week to discuss study abroad options, or a cocktail party this weekend that she’s nervous she won’t get a good date for. Maybe she likes to draw, or debate, or design computer programs. She probably has a best friend who’s seen her cry. Maybe she was just checking out my ass.

(Okay that last one was probably wishful thinking, but I have been doing a lot of yoga lately.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is, Hot Girls At the Gym are more than just Hot Girls At the Gym. They may occasionally make me feel like a giant ball of incompetent frizzy sweat, but that’s my problem, not theirs. They have every right to do their gym thing, and I have every right to do mine. I just happen to do it in a way that’s ever-so-slightly less enjoyable to look at. And smell.

So if you’re like me and you sweat like a pig in July when you get on a treadmill, or you can’t wear sleek Nike sneakers because they don’t give your feet enough arch support, or you don’t love wearing leggings to workout because sometimes they give you weird wedgies, that’s okay. Or if you do love wearing leggings, and your badass Nikes are your favorite shoes, and you can run hundreds of miles without breaking a sweat, that’s cool too. Maybe you are the Hot Girl at the Gym, and you’re thinking back to the time you were doing crunches on the ab mats and you saw that girl with huge sweat stains and curly hair marveling at your ass. If so, that’s a little uncomfortable and I’m sorry you had to read all of this, but maybe we can be friends someday.

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