Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Essay Writing Process

I recently changed majors, from one where there were no essays required from me, to one where there are lots of essays required from me. As such, I've become very aware of the process I go through to write an essay.
Note: This is just a general format, obviously each essay is different.

Step 1: Read the prompt.
Step 2: Look at the number of pages expected from me.
Step 3: Panic.
Step 4: Read the prompt again, hoping desperately that I think of something to say on the topic.
Step 5: Go off and do other things, occasionally thinking about the essay and worrying.
Step 6: Out of nowhere, think of an argument or fact that can be used for the essay.
Step 6 1/2: Go back through my readings/do research to find facts I can use.
Step 7: Write down the fact(s) in my outline.
Repeat steps 6-7 until I have an outline that is at least half as long as my paper needs to be, because the outline is single spaced, doesn't use full sentences, and doesn't include anything regarding the introduction or conclusion.
Step 8: Go over my outline, rearranging things until I feel like there's at least some transition between main points.
Step 9: Try to start writing an introduction.
Step 10: Get annoyed because every attempt to start the paper is garbage.
Step 11: Skip straight to writing the first body paragraph because I have an outline for it so I at least have some idea of what I want to write.
Step 12: Get inspiration for my introduction in the middle of writing a body paragraph.
Step 13: Go back and write my introduction.
Step 14: Finish my body paragraphs.
Step 14 1/2: Every so often write a sentence that I just hate so much that I delete it, then rewrite it only to delete it again until I just give up and decide to let future me deal with the problem of the terrible sentence in editing.
Step 15: Try to write a conclusion.
Step 16: Get frustrated because conclusions are hard.
Step 17: Just write something as a conclusion, mostly by reiterating my main points.
Step 18: Wait 8-24 hours before rereading the essay.
Step 19: Reread the essay, expecting it to be terrible.
Step 20: Become pleasantly surprised that it isn't a steaming pile of turd after all.
Step 21: Fix the terrible sentences that annoyed me earlier, because for some reason I can now figure out how to phrase them so that they aren't terrible.
Step 22: Reread the essay, fixing spelling and grammar mistakes as I go.
Step 23: Turn the essay in.
Step 24: Panic that it's actually a horrible essay and that I should have spent more time fixing it. At no point reread the essay to reassure myself that it isn't bad.
Step 25: Listen to the person who graded the essay explain in general terms what we as a group did wrong and should improve on for the future.
Step 26: Assume that every single one of these errors applies to me, even if the part of my brain that remembers the essay knows that they can't all apply.
Step 27: Get the graded essay back.
Step 28: Congratulate myself on having tricked the TA/professor/grader into thinking I'm a good writer.
Step 29: Briefly consider that maybe, just maybe, I have unrealistically high standards for myself as a writer.
Step 30: Disregard that thought. It's clearly stupid.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why Rory Williams is the Best Companion

Note: Most of this was written before The Snowmen, so Clara isn't in the running here. Also, spoilers.
“…you are always going to have the same sort of person, just because it’s the same man choosing them, and it’s the same person being chosen.
I think the function of a companion is pretty simple. I don’t think that’s very difficult. It’s just a question of who credibly is going to agree to go in the TARDIS? Who’s going to do it? Is it going to be a mother of 15 children? No. Is it going to be someone in their 60s? No. Is there going to be a particular age range? I mean … who’s going to have a crush on the Doctor? You know, come on! It’s more than a format. It’s evolved from good, dramatic reasons.”
-Steven Moffat in Doctor Who Magazine

Moffat makes an excellent point about what makes a companion. It's true that the different companions add their own flavor, but ultimately they have basic common traits. It's worth noting that Rose, who is unemployed and Donna, who is a temp, plan to travel forever, only checking in on occasion, while Martha, who is on her way to being a doctor, and Amy who is getting married the next morning, travel only after confirming that they can return to their lives as though they never left. They all want to escape their "boring" lives, either forever or just to see what else is out there.

Then there's Rory. Rory has no desire to leave the little town he lives in. We see that his dream is to be settled down with Amy, having a family and a career as a doctor (Amy's Choice). He craves responsibility and stability, essentially the opposite of the Doctor's life. Rory travels with the Doctor, not to fulfill his own dreams, but to be with the love of his life. However, while traveling with the Doctor isn't the life he would choose for himself, he still participates fully. He is ready for the next adventure, but would always be fine with a stop and rest at home. In The Power of Three, we see a slight shift to Rory. This Rory is more excited and willing to travel with the Doctor, but he stays true to himself and enjoys his stability. He is the one to bring up the option of choosing not to travel to Amy, though ultimately he does happily join in on the adventure.

Some of Rory's greatest moments come from the fact that unlike these other companions he doesn't idolize the Doctor. The Doctor does not represent all his greatest hopes and dreams, and as such he can see the flaws much more clearly. He chastises the Doctor for putting other people in danger (Vampires in Venice). In  The God Complex he reminds the Doctor that "everyone is important" not by quoting that belief back to the Doctor, but by simply mentioning that the dead boy in front of them had gotten over his stutter. 

Like many of the female companions who've traveled with the Doctor, Rory is able to gain more confidence in himself and his abilities through knowing the Doctor. And yet, Rory really was amazing before he met the Doctor. He was the one to notice that the coma patients were up and about and he took video footage of it (The Eleventh Hour). After meeting the Doctor, rather than just go along with things, he started doing research and thus was completely unimpressed by the TARDIS (Vampires in Venice). He is an incredibly self aware character from start ("Did he just save the world from aliens, and then bring all the aliens back again?"-The Eleventh Hour), to middle ("Can you ride a motorbike?" "I expect so it's that sort of day."-Let's Kill Hitler), to end ("You think you'll just come back to life." "When don't I?" -Angels Take Manhattan).

Just as TV shows' best episodes tend to be the ones where they break from the format (Buffy has "Hush" and "The Body", and Blink is considered one of the stronger episodes of Doctor Who), Rory is the best companion because he is different. He doesn't thirst for adventure and he isn't in love with the Doctor.  Donna, the first companion of the new series not to be in love with the Doctor is also considered one of the better companions. But he does it anyway. He makes the best of a not ideal situation.

This isn't to say that the other companions haven't been good. They have. But Rory is the best. Of the new series at least. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Childhood Book Tag

1. What were your favorite books read to you as a child? Why?

Both my parents read to me, but some books stand out a little more than others. Both my parents read me various Magic Treehouse books. I think I stopped right before the book Christmas in Camelot because I remember asking for a copy for Hannukah and being told that it would be better to get some other time. And then I never got around to reading it. My Dad also read me The Chronicles of Narnia series, as well as The Hobbit. My Mom  read me the first few chapters of Harry Potter and Sorcerer's Stone to get me interested and now that's one of my favorite series. 

2. Do you have any special memories or traditions associated with these books?

There was a period of time where I would get up to three bedtime stories. My babysitter would read me a bedtime story, then my Mom would come in a read me a story and then my Dad would come in and read me a story (or something along those lines, the exact line-up is a little fuzzy). I don't remember how aware each of them were that I was getting three bedtime stories, but I loved it.

With my Dad, when he read me Narnia and Hobbit every so often he'd give the book to me and make me read for a while.

Also with Harry Potter, the reason my Mom stopped reading them to me was because I got so into the books that I just started reading them on my own because I wanted to know what happened next. I didn't want to wait for the next night to find out. I also came into the series late (book four had just come out when I started reading them) so I had a lot of catching up to do.

3. What were your favorite books or series when you were old enough to read? Why?

I really loved The Frog Princess series by E.D. Baker. I think this was the start of my love for alternate takes on fairy tales. Similarly, I loved (and still love) The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. I also really liked the book What is the Teacher's Toupee Doing in the Fishtank? by Jerry Piasecki. It was just a really funny book with pranks and heist like actions. I also loved the T*Witches book series. It was about twin witches who were separated at birth. The series starts with them meeting as teens and learning to use their powers. Also Harry Potter 1-5 came out while I was in elementary school, so those count too, right? Ohh! A Series of Unfortunate Events! That's a great series. It's just really funny in weird ways.

4. What was your favorite book character in these?

The Frog Princess - It's been so long since I read the original books (there's a prequel and sequel series now). I guess Emma. Grassina's also great. I think I like her in the latter books a little more. 
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles - Cimorene. Or Kazul. Maybe Trouble. Can I just love all of them?
What is the Teacher's Toupee Doing in the Fishtank? - Mr. Finelli. He was the teacher. This guy was awesome. "[Written on the blackboard]'I've left you all a package on each desk. Can you guess what it is?' [Frankie] 'A TV dinner?' [Blackboard] 'No Frankie, it isn't a TV dinner.'"
T*Witches - Alex. She was awesome.
Harry Potter - Confirming that no one's favorite character from Harry Potter is Harry Potter, Professor McGonagall is my favorite.
A Series of Unfortunate Events - I think the narrator/Lemony Snicket was my favorite honestly.

5. What was your favorite book in a childhood series?

Chamber of Secrets has always been up there for me. Prisoner of Azkaban is pretty high up as well. I guess Calling on Dragons is my favorite in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, but that's only because of the cats. And Killer. All the others are tied for a very close second. The Ersatz Elevator was my favorite for A Series of Unfortunate Events.

6. Did you ever dress up like one from your favorite books?

I'm sure I dressed as Hermione at some point. And if not, I've worn Hogwarts uniform stuff to Wizard Rock concerts, so close enough.

7. Was there a movie adaptation of any of your childhood favorites? If so, did you like it?

Chronicles of Narnia - I only saw the first 2 movies they did but I remember being really impressed by how well they stuck to the book and made a good movie.
The Hobbit - I want the next two parts out now, so I can see them and love them, that's how much I loved the first part.
The Frog Princess - Apparently Disney's The Princess and the Frog was based off of The Frog Princess. I mean, it's mentioned in the credits. Honestly the only thing the two movies have in common is that the girl turns into a frog after kissing the prince, and a swamp is involved. There is literally nothing else the same. I like The Princess and the Frog as a movie, but as a movie adaptation ... I don't know how they can call it an adaptation, honestly. 
T*Witches - Disney made it into a Disney Channel Original movie. It...wasn't great. As a movie OR an adaptation.
Harry Potter - For the most part I've liked the Harry Potter movies. Though I will sometimes rant a little about the stuff that got left out.

8. Have you read any children's series as an adult/teen that you loved? If so, what were they?

I guess the Percy Jackson books count. As do the later Harry Potter books. I think I read Peter and the Starcatchers too, though I don't think I finished that series. Umm, I only this summer read the most recent books in the Princess and the Frog series, so those count too I guess.