Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Recap

2013 was a long year....

In January I painted my room making it a place I enjoy living in and I spent hours in a room for my Biology group 4 project.  It made us closer but we went a little insane and started checking the ducts for dead bodies. To be fair there was blood everywhere.
Posts: Car Adventures, Upgrading Is Compulsory

In February, I took a 6 hour round-trip road trip with my friends to explore Bridgeville.  I also visited went to the local zoo.  And, of course, a lot of school work.

In March I spent a lot of time exploring Humboldt County.  I went on hikes with my dogs, visited various beaches, went to a cemetery, and went to school tennis games.  I even found my favorite place in Humboldt! (the 4th picture).  All this exploration made me feel more comfortable in my hometown.  I also dyed my hair and of course, visited Redding for Easter.

My adventuring continued in April as my friends began to say "A Pirate Who Falls Behind Is Left Behind".  We had an Easter Egg Hunt for ourselves, went on a lone camping trip, and, of course, went to the beach some more.

May, the month of IB tests but also the month of freedom.  Our tests were the only homework we had so this month was full of ditching and relaxing in the sun in preparation, or avoidance, of our tests.  This month was full of mini-adventures and sunshine.  There was also Cotillion and the Junior IB Theatre play (Candide). I hope May 2014 is as much fun. 

In June, I became a senior.  I bonded with my friends with more adventures to the river and a Zoo.  I also traveled to Michigan to meet extended family members and visit colleges.  I also read The Brothers Karamazov for school but that was the only downside in an amazing month.

July was a very chill month.  I finished painting the other half of my room, went camping with my Dad (where we tried to burn everything.  FYI graham cracker's have amazing longevity), and, most importantly, flew to Boston to hang out with friends for a week.

August was a perfect month of relaxation before school started.  August began in LA with VidCon and college tours.  I visited UCLA and UCSD.  At VidCon I saw We The Kings and many others perform live with my good friends Emily and Olivia.  After VidCon, I went to Disneyland with my cousins, an experience I want to repeat.  Once back home, I went to the Humboldt County Fair mostly just to watch the horse races! I can't wait to bet on them this year.
Posts: VidCon 

September, the dreaded return of school.  Besides the constant thought of college, it actually wasn't too bad.  The annual trip to Ashland was fantastic and the sun stuck around.

Along with the colder months came more homework and college essays.  Thankfully, there was fun interspersed.  My school took a trip to the pumpkin patch and the opera house, also my friends and I occupied ourselves with kittens and hidden views.

I turned in 5 college applications this month.  Figures crossed that next May I get 5 acceptances!! I also went to Fern Canyon to help my friend's photo shoot for IB art, traveled to San Francisco again for Day of the Dead, traveled to Redding again for Thanksgiving, and participated in my high school's Halloween House.

Finally we have December.  It's been really good. I've been able to connect with my family more with the holidays and my birthday.   I also got an iPhone which has upped my selfie-taking considerably.  The horribly freezing weather has stopped a lot of adventuring but we've had a lot of fun indoors.

All in all, 2013 was wonderful.  While it was, in the big picture, only an interim year with no major life stepping stones, 2013 was full of good memories.  This past year I feel that I have begun to feel more comfortable in my own skin and this has allowed me to for closer bonds with my friends and family.  It's easy to forget what happens in your own life.  Looking back at my 2013 today has made me realize that the little adventures do count.  Getting out of my house and having fun with my friends is what made this year great.  I can't wait to continue that in 2014 with the added adventure of college! I will keep you informed, probably.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ladies of the Field: Early Women Archaeologists and Their Search for Adventure by Amanda Adams

Ladies of the Field: Early Women Archaeologists and Their Search for Adventure by Amanda Adams
Publisher:  Greystone Books
Pages: 192
Rating: 5/5

     The first women archaeologists were Victorian era adventurers who felt most at home when farthest from in.  Canvas tents were their domains, hot Middle Eastern deserts their gardens of inquiry and labor. Thanks to them, prevailing ideas about feminine nature - soft, nurturing submissive - were upended. Ladies of the Field tells the story of seven remarkable women, each a pioneering archaeologist, each headstrong, smart and courageous who burst into what was then a very young science.  Amanda Adams takes us with them as they hack away at underbrush under a blazing sun, battle swarms of biting bugs, travel on camel-back for weeks on end, and feel the excitement of unearthing history at an archaeological site. Adams also reveals the dreams of these extraordinary women, their love of the field, their passion for holding the past in their hands, their fascination with human origins and their utter disregard for convention. (from Shelfari)

Whenever I have been asked what I want to be when I grow up, I have always answered archaeologist.  Something about the adventure and monotony of archaeology attracted my attention as a toddler and remains to this day.  So when I saw this book at my local library, I had to pick it up.  Before this book, I didn't know of any female archaeologists but now I know of 7 amazing ones.  In Ladies of the Field, Adams does a fantastic job of outlining these women's archaeological accomplishments as well as their lives.  The seven female archaeologist examined in that novel are Amelia Edwards, Jane Dieulafoy, Zelia Nuttall, Gertrude Bell, Harriet Boyd Hawes, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy Garrod.  For each woman, Adams tells of their life-long struggles, romantic interests, career paths, education, opposition to typical female stereotypes, and, of course, their contribution to archaeology.  While it was definitely interesting to learn about the contributions these women have made to history, it was more inspiring than informative.  Reading about how these women overcame Victorian stereotypes to follow their passion has inspired me to continue to aspire for a career in this field.  If you're looking for some female empowerment I would definitely recommend this book.  I know the stories of these women will be a source of inspiration for me.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I don't know what pictures to use so SELFIE.
Instead of a normal book review for The Happiness Project, I'm going to share with you what I found to be most interesting and what I would like to adopt in my life.  If you don't know, Gretchen Rubin set out to spend a year of her life focusing on how to boost her happiness in daily life.  She wanted to appreciate her life while she lived it.  In her own words: "I wanted to change my life without changing my life".  To accomplish this, Gretchen decided upon 12 areas of her life she wished to improve in and assigned one per month, created area based goals she wished to work on each month.  The entire novel is full of interesting food for thought.  I'm going to share 6 ideas I found most interesting and want to incorporate into my own life, one per month (January-June; don't want to give everything away!).  The Happiness Project isn't a how-to guide for happiness but rather a memoir by a friend.  She is honest about her failures and misgivings throughout the novel changing it from a definite guide to a personal exploration inspiring the reader to discover how to change their own life.  I'm not even scratching the surface of this novel.  If you find the following insights interesting, I encourage you to check out the rest of the book!

January - Buyer's Remorse Clutter
This is one of my greatest nemesis.  Too many times I've bought clothes which I have never worn.  For example, I own a mustard yellow pea coat. I thought it was awesome when I bought it, however I have only worn it 10 times in the 4 years I've owned it. Yet, I cannot throw it away because it was expensive and I haven't used it enough. Gretchen hits the problem right on the nose: "rather than admit that I'd made a bad purchase, I hung onto things until somehow I felt they'd been 'used up' by sitting in a closet or on a shelf".  I need to throw these things away.

February - Dealing With Anger
Some believe it is better to vent all anger. I am not one of these people.  I view anger as an incredibly unhelpful emotion which only breeds more anger. I find that when I express anger I inwardly hope that the person or object I'm frustrated with will change, which is usually impossible.  However, if I accept that something is difficult, I begin to look for ways to cool my anger myself instead of forcing change on something else.  I was vindicated in this belief when Gretchen talked about how expressing anger only amplifies it.

March - Expanding Your Self-Definition
Many people advocate for trying new activities and learning new things but Gretchen added another factor besides the joy of learning, expanding self-definition.  She claims that buy having more talents and activities, one feels less threatened and unhappy when one of them is attacked as you are comforted by that fact that you have other things to work on.

My friend Mo's artwork

April - Acknowledge People's Feelings
During this month, Gretchen focused on parenthood and I thought it was very interesting how the acknowledgement of other people's feelings helps you toward the outcome you want more than arguing would.  Plus no one feels mean or hurt in this scenario! I would love to be conscious enough of what I say to do this.

May - Enjoyment Lasts
While focusing on leisure, Gretchen asks her friend for help discovering what she liked to do and her friend answered "What you enjoyed as a ten-year-old is probably something you'd enjoy now". The simplicity and truth of this statement has made it stick in my head.

June - Spontaneous Trait Transference
Gossip never feels morally correct anyway but the spontaneous trait transference makes me want to never say another negative thing. Basically psychologists have shown that when you call someone arrogant, mean, or other adjectives, the person listening to you automatically associates the speaker with that quality.  So quite literally talking bad about someone only makes you look bad.

I hope you enjoyed this little segments from The Happiness Project.  I really do love this book and can see myself rereading it multiple times in the future so do yourself a favor and pick one up next time you go to the bookstore or your library!

(Oh and Happy Holidays everyone.  I hope you all had a great Christmas/Holiday season and will have a great New Years!)

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Musical Friday

It's been quite a while since I've written one of these posts and I'm loving some new songs.

Let It Go by Idina Menzel in Disney's Frozen
I recently saw this new Disney princess film with my friend Dana and loved it to bits.  I really like the direction Disney has been moving in with Tangled, Brave and now Frozen. Every time I listen to this song I get the shivers, in a good way!

R U Mine by Arctic Monkeys
I've had this album on repeat in my car for days and I've discovered that this song is my favorite.  I don't listen to the radio but I think Arctic Monkeys have been gaining some popularity in America which I think it really cool. I've been a pop music junkie all my life but it's really cool to see a more 'indie' style of music becoming the norm.  Plus Alex Turner's greaser look, yes please.

Of The Night by Bastille
I can't get over how much I love this band.  Usually I listen to an album on repeat until I hate it entirely but this has yet to happen with Bastille and I've been listening to them for about 6 months now.  They're re-releasing Bad Blood with extra songs in January and I can't wait!

Afraid by The Neighborhood
Almost everyone has listened to Sweater Weather but I prefer this song. Plus this video is amazing and raw.

No Church In The Wild by Kanye West
A slightly older song then the others but still just as good. I tend not to like rap but then beautiful songs like this one show up and I make me reconsider my world.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Product Review: Rimmel London BB Cream and NYC Sparkle Eye Dust

A couple of weeks ago I picked up these two products at my local drug store.  I was intrigued by the lip-gloss like applicator on the NYC Sparkle Eye Dust and I've been dying to try a BB Cream since I learned of their existence.  Now, after using these products, I've developed some opinions on them which I would like to share.

I love this eye shadow so much.  It's fabulous for lazy/late mornings when I don't have time to use my normal combo of three eye shadows.  It's weird but incredibly easy to apply as it is literally the same as a lip-gloss container.  The only slight annoyance is that it's hard to keep the power from straying above my crease.  However, this could easily be because I'm horribly lazy/late when I use this product.  All in all, it's really nice to use when you have little time in the morning.

I hate this BB Cream.  I love Rimmel Match Perfection Foundation everyday around my eyes so I figured that this BB Cream would be a good transition into a lighter foundation, no, that was a bad assumption.  This BB Cream makes my skin look really bad and kinda like cake.  I can visibly see the product on my face which is weird as the normal foundation blends right into my skin.  I just can't wear it.  Do you know of a good and cheap BB Cream I could try cause I really want to love it. (side note: I'm not wearing this in the picture)

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Christmas Tag

Today I helped my mom set up the variety of Christmas Trees we have each year.  However, this time we went a little overboard and set up 5 trees laden with ornaments.  I find it interesting how my mom comes up with more and more unusual trees every year.  Anyway, I've been channeling the Christmas spirit all day so I figured I'd answer the Christmas tag as well.

1. Favorite Christmas Movie
How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carry.  I just love it. Except that weird part in the middle when they shove food in his mouth....The Nightmare Before Christmas is another must see.

2. What Is Your Favorite Christmas Color?
White, red and brown are my favorite winter colors. They are the majority of my wardrobe right now.

3. Do You Open Your Presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
Christmas morning for sure.  Once I stayed with the German part of my family for Christmas and we opened everything on Christmas Eve.  It felt so wrong.

4. What's Your Favorite Winter Fragrance?
Recently I've been using White Citrus from Bath & Body Works because it's still flowery but with a hint of a woodsy smell which fits well with winter.

5. Favorite Christmas Smell?
Shortbread cookies because my mom and I, or just her, make them every year.  Also, that awful smell that emerges the first day you turn on you're heater. It just reminds me that it's time for the holidays.

6. Favorite Holiday Drink?
This year I've been LOVING the Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks.  But Martinelli's always boosts my Christmas Spirit.

7. Candy Cane or Gingerbread Men?
Neither, I don't like mint and never thought gingerbread was yummy...sorry!

8. Favorite Christmas Song?
Each year my high school goes caroling at the local retirement homes.  This tradition has fostered deep love for Feliz Navidad and Carol Of The Bells because they're so fun to sing.  I also really like Auld Lang Syne.

9. Have You Ever Made A Snowman?
Unfortunately not.  As a California native, I've had very little experience with snow.  Probably the only time it will snow this year happened while I was taking the SAT Subject Tests and it wasn't enough to stick.

10. What Is Most Important To You About The Holidays?
Spending time with my cousins who come up from LA each year.  Over the past 8 years these two boys have grown into my psuedo-brothers and I can't wait to see them again.

I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season so far! If you decide to answer these questions make sure you leave me a link.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

The Sting Man: Inside Abscam by Robert W. Greene

The Sting Man: Inside Abscam by Robert W. Greene
Publisher:  Penguin
Pages: 324
Rating: 4/5

     In February 1980, the nation learned that the FBI had been conducting a sophisticated sting operation called Abscam in an effort to combat white-collar crimes such as art-theft, securities forgery, and counterfeiting.  Led by Mel Weinberg, international con man par excellence, the investigation soon revealed that there was a bigger game afoot.  Abscam eventually led to the convictions of a US Senator, several members of the House of Representatives, a gaggle of state and city officials, and a small army of lawyers and influence brokers who specialized in government favors.
     In The Sting Man, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Robert W. Greene presents not only an expose of the operation itself, but also a thrilling account of Weinberg's genesis as a small-time street hustler in the Bronx and his rise as the FBI's international con mastermind.  A rogue's story, as well as an unsettling lesson in civics, The Sting Man offers a vivid and fascinating look at the underbelly of the American Dream and poses the question: Can you really con an honest man?

In The Sting Man, Greene provides an all-inclusive account of Abscam.  In 1978, Amoroso and other FBI agents created a con to catch white-collar criminals.  They enlist the help of Melvin (Mel) Weinberg, a life-long confidence man, to structure their sting.  Mel had been coning people since the age of six in 1931 when he would steal gold stars from the teacher's desk to hide his failure from his mother.  He soon graduated into front-end scams building himself a large fortune.  With Mel's help, the FBI formulate a scam in which two agents pose as the American representatives of an imaginary Arab sheikh who wishes to invest billions and find permanent asylum in America.  Greene utilizes 237 interviews with Weinberg, FBI tapes and official court transcripts to trace how this con attracted elected public officials as well as the white-collar criminals it was originally designed to capture.

I picked up The Sting Man as it is the true story behind the upcoming film American Hustle.  Before I found this novel in Barnes and Noble, I thought that American Hustle was a fictional movie and had never heard of Abscam before.  Having finished the novel, I am amazed by the amount of corruption the FBI found. Numerous congressmen were named as possible targets and quite a few were actually convicted for trading money for pushing bills.  The power of greed is examined deeply in this story. Weinberg's philosophy of man emphasizes that all men are powered by greed. The idea of obtaining large amounts of money causes men to push aside all rational and moral judgement. Weinberg also talks about how hope helps a con man. People would rather hope that the money will eventually come rather than entertain the notion that they are being conned. I found these two insights extremely interesting and knowing them makes me hope I'll be harder to con! All in all, The Sting Man, while at times dry due to it's journalist author, outlines one of the few events in which the FBI fought against the government directly and was engaging, making me truly interested in the subject, and chock full of facts, making me confident in my knowledge of this historical event.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

18 Goals for 18 Years

My adorable 18 year old selfie

Last year, on A Beautiful Mess,  I stumbled across the idea of yearly assigning goals in accordance with age. I quickly formulated 17 goals and now, a year later, I'm back with my new 18 resolutions. I'm really excited and scared for the new challenges I'm going to face and happy to set such reachable yet engaging goals!

1. Develop Better Relations With My Parents

I am moving away Fall 2014 for college and I'm worried that I without seeing my parents everyday, I will not stay in contact with them.  To remedy this, I want to create a better relationship with my parents so they will become people I want to talk to rather than people I have to talk to.

2. Be More Enthusiastic and Supportive Towards My Friends

I have a bad habit of not caring about what my friends are doing. Oh, you're in a play? Good luck with that.... NOT ANYMORE! I will be supportive and encouraging toward my friends.

3. Learn to Cook? Develop a Specialty

With college just around the corner, I don't want to be stuck only being able to make packaged pasta and premade pizza.

4. Utilize a dictionary

Recently my English teacher mentioned that he had a personal dictionary in which he would mark every time he looked up a word. I was intrigued by this mini time-capsule and I want to start my own.  Plus a better vocabulary is never bad.

5. Read more non-fiction and classic literature

I find more fulfillment from these types of books than my usual YA novels or best-sellers so why not read more of them?

6. Throw Shit Away

I want to be able to take everything I want to college and as I'll be flying to school, that will be difficult. I'm hoping that by thinning out my items even more, I can take all I want to college next fall.

7. Do more volunteer work

Right now I volunteer at the public library once a week but I'd love to do more to help my community.

8. Cut down on internet and television

I don't feel good after scrolling though tumblr or watching TV for hours.  I always feel that I lost the opportunity to learn or do something that will lower my stress levels. Ultimately, I want to cut down to maybe 3 TV shows and almost no wasted time on social network.

9. Utilize the Opportunities Presented To Me In College

I will not allow myself to sit in my dorm studying. Grades are important and will always come first but I also want to be involved in volunteer organizations, clubs, and other things presented at my college.  Get off your butt and go to everything!

10. Actively Blog

Looking back through my blog this winter, I discovered that I am really proud of what I've done here.  I'd like to continue and get better at updating so there are no longer weeks of major activity and then weeks of nothing.

11. See More Live Music

Though I have been to many cons with musical performances, I have been to very few concerts.  I'm hoping to rectify this and already have some events lined up!

12. Moisturize

Though the word just reminds me of Cassandra from Doctor Who, I think my skin would benefit from being moisturized.

13. Learn How to Shoot in Manual

I really want to learn how a camera actually works.  Plus I'm excited to get pictures that look the way I want them to look rather than how my camera wants them to look!

14. Stay in Touch

When I moved and left middle school, I lost many of my good friends.  With graduation in 6 months, I don't want the same thing to happen to my high school friends. I want to make a conscious effort to stay in touch.

15. Eat Well and Exercise

I feel so much better when I take the time to eat something besides pasta and head over to the gym.  I need to work it into my normal routine.

16. Buy Less Shit

I hate feeling that I'm a cost to my parents.  I want to find away to cut back on the little things I buy almost weekly.  For example, sandwiches from the local grocery store for lunch.

17.Thrive to be Tidy and Organized

Wow, so many of these are about college.  Anyway, I want to be more on top of my chores and mess.  A nice desk, vacuumed carpet, and clean bedding please!

18. Have A Good Year

With the IB tests and freshman year of college this next year, I'm stressed out just thinking about it.  Therefore, I want my last goal to simply be to have a good time.

The cake my parents got me to celebrate.  Apparently I'm still 8 to them!
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Final Review: 17 Goals for 17 Years

Back in January of this year, almost a month after my birthday, I set myself 17 goals I wanted to accomplish during my 17th year (link).  I checked in on my goals back in July (link) but with my 18th birthday only 10 days away, I want to look back on the goals I set myself and reflect on how I did.

1. Decorate my room so I love it

SUCCESS I am actually very proud of this one.  In the past year I have finally finished painting (link), decorating (link), and rearranging my room into one I love to spend time in.

2. Grow out my hair

SUCCESS Granted this one required little work but I am happy to report that my hair has officially bounced back from the short bob I hated.

3. Bake from scratch

SUCCESS Okay, I only truly baked from scratch once but for me it counts.  This year for Halloween instead of carving my pumpkin, I cut it in half and threw it in the oven.  A couple of hours later I had a pumpkin pie, a pumpkin cheesecake, and a great feeling.

4. Take Ceramics all year

SUCCESS I can't actually remember how many ceramics classes I've taken but I definitely took one this fall, plus I never missed a session so I'm calling this one good.

5. Declutter and buy less

SUCCESS I definitely own less things that I don't use.  But even better than that, everything I own has a specific place in my room and that is a miracle.

6. Spend spare time on test prep books

FAILURE I have not picked up any of my many test prep books except specifically to study for an upcoming SAT or ACT.  I just need to give the others away cause I'm never going to use them.

7. Read a fatty cold war book

FAILURE Same as the test prep books above, I have not picked up any of my cold war books except to work on my EE and I haven't even done that enough.

8. Take a picture everyday

FAILURE hahahahahahahaha I started this project with good intentions but have failed epicly.  I can't even remember the last time I took photos daily. Hopefully with a new phone on the way I will get better at this goal. Here was my attempt: link

9. Go camping

SUCCESS I went camping twice this year.  Once with 3 of my close friends and once with my father (link).

10. Eat more salad

SUCCESS I know this is true because I've begun to order salads at restaurants and crave salads at lunch time.

11. Spend less time on the internet

SUCCESS I wish there was a way to track my time spent on the internet but as I have yet to find a program which does that I'm going to go with my gut instinct which tells me I have in fact spent less time on the internet this year.

12. Make Christmas Cards

FAILURE Yeah, this takes way more effort than I  have when all my college apps are due.

13. Swim 

FAILURE I have swam quite a bit this year but not enough for me to call this a success.  I have yet to find a gym routine that works for me.

14. Stay Hydrated

SUCCESS I have definitely noticed an increase in hydration.  I used to experience blurry vision upon standing at least once a week but now I go entire weeks without it!

15. Write in a Journal

FAILURE While I have finished my journal which I've used for the past 2 years, I can recall many events which did not make it onto the pages of a journal.

16. Make Sushi

FAILURE I think I made sushi about twice this year and both times it did not turn out well.  I just don't have the patience to roll them tight enough!

17. Use reusable bags

SUCCESS I have stopped bagging my food when I go to grocery stores.  When I spent time with my friends in Boston this summer (link) they thought I was really weird for carrying my groceries out in my arms instead of sticking them in a bag.  

With 7 failures and 10 success, I think I did pretty well. Oddly enough, when I wrote this list I knew that making sushi, daily pictures, and my other failures were unlikely to be accomplished.  I want to be pushed into doing these more difficult goals but I can't view them as unlikely.  In that mindset, I have little drive to work toward those goals.  I'm going to keep that in mind while writing my list this year.  I need to create goals which I will need to work on but I still think I can accomplish. 

I also feel the need to say that I have really loved my life this year.  I just looked through all my blog posts from the last year and am really happy with all the things I got to experience and all the fun I've had.  It's easy to forget everything in the day to day shuffle of homework but I am incredible blessed.  Here's to another year of new experiences!

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