Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Superblog 3

I'm so sorry this has taken so long! It was kind of a bit of a struggle to write this piece, because it ended up being way bigger than I intended. Anyway, I hope it was worth the wait!

Nobody ever saw it coming. Nobody had any idea that something like this was even possible. Names like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were suddenly in the headlines again, though this time for completely different reasons. No, this time the news was cause for celebration.

Disney had been toying with the idea of sentient and intelligent animals for years, but they lacked the imagination to bring those ideas to fruition in the real world. They only thought about how to make them cute and witty, not useful. No, it took the brains of a bored college student to figure out how to tap into the psyche of animals and make them like humans.

Michael Williams was a first year graduate student in biology, and had, for some strange reason, decided to spend a year in Antarctica. He was part of a project which microchipped penguins so scientists could track them better. He had been on the project for about 3 months, and all the glamor of living in year-round freezing temperatures had definitely worn off.

It was a snowy (big surprise) afternoon when the idea hit him. What if the microchips that were being implanted into these penguins could be altered? What if they could control brain synapses in the animals, force them to think human thoughts? These creatures could solve problems like world hunger, or the global economy, or anything! That would be totally awesome! Then, like any college student stuck inside during a blizzard, he went to his computer and completely forgot about that idea.

Another month passed before the extreme boredom hit him again. He was supposed to be organizing the data and preparing supplies in order to go into the field the next day. Instead, he was sitting in his chair, legs thrown over one of the arms, and twirling one of the microchips in his hands. He got a little too excited in his twirling, and the microchip suddenly flew from his hands and skidded under the filing cabinet by his computer. Thanks to the existence of a meter stick  in the compound(because, for some reason, every science lab has at least one meter stick, even though it rarely actually gets used), he managed (after a good 10 minutes of trying, mind you) to slide the microchip out from under the cabinet. When he finally picked it up off the ground (and did a little happy dance at the averted crisis), he looked at the chip, and immediately saw a problem.

These chips represented a significant investment from the government, who apparently decided that penguins were worth this much money (perhaps they were just the guinea pigs for the tracking chips, and the humans were the real primary target, we’ll never know). Now imagine that you just broke a very expensive gadget, and you only have a limited number of these very expensive gadgets, and you can’t afford for any of them to break before they were even used. Now imagine you’re a 23 year old college student who just broke a gadget while you weren’t even supposed to be touching them. You’d probably do what Michael did: he tried to fix it.

Like any good scientist, Michael got the original schematics for the chips, as well as his own pen and paper so he could right down exactly what he did to fix it (for his own mental sanity more than anything). He tweaked. He soldered. He did this and that, until he finally fixed it. It looked just like the others, as well as matched the blueprint schematic, so he quickly placed it with the others and started on the task his boss told him to do three hours before.

The next day, everyone got bundled up and headed out for the penguin colony. It was pretty much your average day for scientists living in Antarctica: take a penguin, sedate them, put a chip in their heads, and set them free to live the remainder of their lives the exact same, albeit a little more trackable. Everything was going just swimmingly; none of the penguins were having any negative reactions. They only had 10 more chips for the day when it happened.

There was a sudden noise from one of their penguins that had just woken up from sedation. The scientists were baffled to see a penguin start soulfully singing scat like he had been born to skiddowopawannabeedoobedoodoowopshewannawanna. It honestly felt like a cheap knockoff scene from “Happy Feet”. Poor Michael felt such shame when he figured out that it was probably the faulty chip that was causing this penguin’s sudden musical aptitude. He thought he had wired it back together correctly. Apparently not. He confessed his error to the head of the research project, expecting the worst. Instead, he was pleasantly surprised that the chief scientist was ecstatic over this turn of events.

“With this technology,” said the researcher, “we can unlock so many secrets of the animal kingdom. Hell, we can even learn the secrets of the human brain! This is the best discovery made in recent history! Of course, that is if you can replicate it.”

When Michael showed him the detailed step-by-step instructions that he wrote down, the boss practically kissed him on the lips. This was the beginning of a brave new era, and the human race was changed forever.

It turned out that different animals were affected by the chip in different ways, some more beneficial than others. Penguins had an affinity for jazz music. The original prototype (named “Chip” after the microchip in his brain, because scientists have a very punny sense of humor) actually ended up getting a recording contract, and several of his songs topped the chart during his long life (that was another concern that animal rights activists had: the longevity of the animals’ lives that had the microchip implanted. It was a very smug day when the scientists could successfully conclude that they had no ill effects whatsoever in regards to the animals’ life span).

Lions, on the other hand, became a bit problematic. They immediately took to the rock star life. It started off simple enough: They looked at a time when there were some prominent animal-named bands, such as The Beatles, the Monkeys, etc., and decided to form The Lions. The music was simple, yet inspiring. The band made over 100 hits, 45 of them becoming number ones (this is really only the most famous case. Several other lions tried to roar their way to the top 40 charts, but they ended up succumbing to their addictions, as many young rock bands do).

The band struggled constantly with drugs, however. At first, they experimented with acid. This led to a very trippy feel, as well as a lot of very…interesting experimental music.  Soon after, however, they moved on to a more hyper and techno-sound, as well as a good deal of cocaine. When they got bored of that, they moved on to a grunge scene with a heroine twist. Many PETA people were very concerned about the well-being of these lions. Some brave soul even attempted to remove the microchip from the brain of one of the band members (the bassist, I believe). The carnage left over from the poor animal rights activist sent a very clear message to all others: leave the intelligent, sentient lions alone. Though it seems obvious in retrospect, it wasn’t until the stage lives (as well as their natural lives) were past that the scientists and anthropologists realized that the correlation of drugs and pop music cycled through the history of rock and roll in a more condensed way.

After lions were banned from sentience due to paranoid legislative executives, the fad quickly lost steam (the ban was lifted 5 years later after one of the few remaining sentient lions joined forces with a group of penguins to campaign for lion rights). Out of sheer morbid curiosity, a particularly mad scientist decided she wanted to talk to a cow before it became a hamburger. She implanted the chip, only to discover that the cow desperately wanted to live a wild and rowdy life. The scientist also discovered that cows absolutely loved to be milked. It was almost as good as sex for them. After reporting her findings, the scientific community rejoiced, as they now had a reason to see if all the cows were just as party-bound.

As it happened, cows do have a massive party streak to them. Most of the cows ended up getting multiple piercings (mostly on the udders), and branding quickly became a huge fad in both the cow-world and the human world. The bulls, unfortunately, took an unfortunately similar path. They decided to imitate the Jersey Shore bros. They’d roll in the dirt for that awesome fake-tan look, and they had tribal tattoos carved into their horns. They even had a special clothing line produced so they could wear the polo shirts with the popped collars. Let’s just say that rodeos from that point on were very interesting…

The greatest success for these chips was when they were implemented into giraffes. A scientist decided that giraffes were docile enough creatures that they wouldn’t harm anyone if they became sentient (this was during the great lion ban, so people were extra cautious), and he’d always loved watching them move around at the zoo when he was a little boy. So he commandeered a small tower of giraffes and implanted a chip into their brains.

The result was magnificent: they decided to pursue law. It somehow makes sense that giraffes should wear little brown suits and glasses and carry briefcases. Their minds were absolutely brilliant for upholding the law and interpreting its intent. Everyone wanted a giraffe to represent them (there was even one crackpot who brought in his own giraffe during one case. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a chip, so it didn’t do a very good job).

Their truly remarkable moment was when they represented the case that threatened to overturn Roe v. Wade. Thanks to their legal prowess, the legislation wasn’t passed, and choice remained legal. They also countered the potential illegality of birth control and helped to pass laws implementing the permanence of these options.

The only quirk (as it seems every animal has its own idiosyncrasies) was their choice of names. They decided to take already famous names (or infamous, rather) and change their connotation to a more positive one. And who is more infamous than serial killers? So they chose names like Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Gary Ridgway, etc.  The serial killers still living weren’t too happy about the commandeering of their names, but since they were in jail, there wasn’t too much they could do.

Eventually, every animal got a chip. Most reactions were mundane, or what you’d expect (cats were aloof and dogs were clingy, etc.). Every once in a while, something extraordinary would happen. I’ve listed the most remarkable examples. Eventually, humans wanted microchips as well (“We could be even smarter than we already are!”). Of course, this eventually led to the great mental takeover of 2055, but that’s definitely a story for another day… 

Hope you enjoyed! I'll be (hopefully) posting more frequently now that school's out forever!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

HvZ 2011: Day 5

FRIDAY (Links to the rest here):

Well, today was the final day of Humans vs. Zombies for the semester. It was a bittersweet morning. I put my zombie makeup on, I braided my pigtails, and I put on my fingerless gloves. I tied my bandanna around my head for the last time. Finally, I was ready for school.

My zombie-related day didn't really begin until after my first class ended. Josh and I walked over to the primary zombie hunting ground and got some breakfast (out-of-game breakfast, that is, not any delicious brains). As we were eating and working on homework, I see a guy with a Nerf gun walking around. It was a little suspicious to me that he wasn't looking behind his back paranoidly (is that even a word? Oh well, it is now), but the gun was all the evidence I needed. I successfully executed a sneak attack, and then I realized that he didn't have an armband on, nor a headband. The guy then tells me that not only is he not playing, he's just trying to sell his gun to the highest bidding human. I was a little miffed, because he could get us in trouble if the cops saw him, but I couldn't really do anything about it. Disappointed, I went to my next class.

After the class that lasted 25 years longer than it should have, I went back outside and joined up with a miniature horde. We gave chase to a couple of humans, but they both made it inside before any of us could get them. Then there was one human who hunted us. He managed to pick us all off before we could turn him, and then his reinforcements arrived. We talked about the final mission, and we agreed that in this instance, so long as we didn't try and chase them, we could be unstunned as soon as they were out of sight. It seemed reasonable, so we agreed.

Finally, we saw one human above us on the walkway between the SLC and Tate. He drew both of his weapons and challenged us, as if it was his final stand. It seemed like he wanted to die. We decided to oblige him. Most of the zombies went up to fight him, but I stayed downstairs, just in case he survived and decided to run for it. Turns out my foresight was wasted. I walked up the stairs to see a freshly turned zombie putting away his guns. We all remained up there, keeping a lookout for humans, but they remained elusive. Finally, I had to go to class again (the downside of going to school :p).

After the longest class in the history of ever, I decided to solo to Boyfriend's office. I didn't see any humans along the way. Nor did I find my boyfriend. I waited around for a while, but after a lack of response, I headed back up campus to the primary hunting ground. As I walked, I ran into 8 humans who were armed to the teeth with Nerf and other various forms of weaponry. I was a lone zombie armed with only my hands. I decided to play smart. I pulled my bandanna into the stunned position (getting shot with 50 different darts in about 5 seconds didn't sound like much fun) in order to call a temporary truce. We taunted each other about the final mission that night, but we all survived without a single shot being fired.

I arrived to the middle of campus to find nobody around. Not even a civilian. By that point, Boyfriend finally got in contact with me, and I decided to wait until the final mission at his place. I walked all the way back to where I just was. I saw a lot of darts, but no humans. Finally, I met up with Boyfriend at around 5, and we went back to his place and watched some Doctor Who.

7 o'clock refused to arrive for the longest time. Finally, the time arrived. I drove back to my normal parking lot (the final mission took place at the edge of campus, so my parking spot was useful for once). I arrived at the top of the parking deck, only to see about 20 humans all doing target practice with very big guns. Fortunately, there was a ceasefire enacted so everyone could meet up without fear of being turned (though we did tag a bunch of humans anyway, just to watch them freak out before they remembered about the ceasefire. It was lulzy). Then we waited for the mission to begin.

We ended up waiting there for over an hour. We passed the time getting to know our enemies and compatriots. At one point, one of the humans (who was duel-wielding two identical guns) and I reenacted the killing scene from The Boondock Saints on another zombie. He was less than pleased to be shot in the back of the head by two close-range darts. Finally, it was mission time.

The humans' objective was to collect two out of three pieces of DNA (red blinking flashlights) from the woods and bring them back to the "lab" (the top of the parking deck). Our objective, naturally, was BRRAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIINS. The zombies were given spawn points. These points were two people, and the timer for respawn was set by the first person who arrived at the spawn point. Anybody who joined the spawn point after that was part of that spawn group, and got to go back as soon as the timer ran out for the first person (much better than the 15 minute wait time that the rest of the week had).

The zombies were led into the woods, shown the location of each piece of DNA, and were told to hide. I was part of a group that was camping the third piece of DNA. We found good hiding places, and we waited. And waited. And waited. We heard no signs of any activity whatsoever. No screams for backup, no screams for brains, nothing. It was disconcerting. Finally we heard the sounds of a walkie talkie. A mod came to us, and said that the police were called to the parking deck and were doing a crime scene sweep, so we weren't allowed to use it anymore. The final destination was moved to a field much closer to the DNA location, and we became DNA number one instead of three. We were the first line of defense. We were screwed.

Finally, after everything was re-set up, the game began. The humans' strategy became apparent right away: they all had LED lights strapped to their heads, and they all moved as one. The bright light blinded us, and they bombarded us with darts. The first DNA didn't stand a chance. Fortunately, we managed to turn a couple of them, and we Zerg rushed them back to the main bridge (did I mention that there was a lake?). The first DNA was lost to the humans. The new strategy was "keep the humans on the bridge and make them run out of ammo". Most of the zombies just rushed the humans, got stunned, ran to the spawn points, ran back, got stunned, etc. There were only a few zombies left to protect the other two DNA pieces.

It was only a matter of time before a human decided to take the water route. One brave human decided to go knee deep into the water and attempt to recover one of the DNAs. Fortunately, we had a zombie willing to go the extra mile as well, and he went underwater trying to sneak attack him. Unfortunately, that zombie was our spawn point zombie. I took up the flashlight in his absence and watched in total amusement as these two constantly played a game of sneak attack, stun, respawn, sneak attack, etc. He finally got the DNA, but he also finally got turned into a zombie as well, so that entire fight was all for naught on the human's part.

After that, I was relieved from Spawn Point duty, and I went back to the Zerg rush team. We were slowly dwindling down their numbers, but it was mostly a standstill. Finally, we were all called back to the final destination. Both humans and zombies were confused about the instruction, but we all headed to the field. It turned out that the ROTC was doing an exercise in the woods, and they kicked us out. So for the second time that night, we had to improvise the mission.

The final mission involved the zombies at one end of the field, and the humans at the other. The humans had to get the DNA piece past the line of zombies to the human behind us. There were probably over 100 humans left, and there were only 20 zombies (most of the zombies left because they thought the mission was over when we got called from the woods). We had no chance. The humans didn't even have to try to get the DNA over to the end point. The humans let out a loud cheer because they saved the human race. We all cried braaaaains because we were now going to starve to death.

The final mission ended at 11:30. The zombies ran around for almost 3 hours, trying to prevent the humans from succeeding. Needless to say, we were all completely exhausted. Most of us were all scratched up, myself included. I found Allie and Wayne after the mission. Turns out, Wayne successfully turned Allie just before the end of the mission. Allie was not happy.

I went back to Boyfriend's completely exhausted and covered in red clay. I took a shower and passed out. It was a great final mission, and I really wish I could play again. I know this is only going to get bigger as time goes on, until it becomes a school tradition (either that, or someone's going to ruin it for everyone). I was really glad to be a part of it for the short time I could.

My horde from Wednesday doing the Thriller with the Scout Trooper.
Thanks for reading these posts! Hopefully the superblog will be up soon! Later!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

HvZ 2011: Day 4

THURSDAY (Start from the beginning here):

Today was another slow day, unfortunately. I guess not a lot of people are on campus for Tuesday / Thursday classes. Anyway, the day started exactly the same way the last four did, with the exception that I had a Chinese quiz, so I studied on the bus instead of keeping an eye out for vulnerable, delectable humans. Our teacher showed sympathy for Josh and I, because we were both lost souls to the inevitable hunger for braaaains.

Our last class of the day, we discovered that the other player in our class was still a human. She looked petrified when she realized that she was the lone survivor in the classroom. The best part was that she sits beside me in that class. I taunted her a good bit, telling her how there was no way she could escape the both of us. She kept saying she was going to call for backup, and there was no way that either of us were going to turn her. In the end, she left class 20 minutes early (missing vital information in regards to our homework assignment for the weekend, I might add). I was a little saddened by her taking the coward's way out, but it is all about survival, so I guess I can't blame her.

Josh and I decided to go get some food (real life food, not just humans) at the campus center. We didn't see any players along the way, and pretty much just wrote the day off as unsuccessful. We sat for a while, just talking and joking around, when Josh suddenly became alert. He said one word: "human". We both bolted from the table, and took different exits so we could surround him. Josh pulled a flawless sneak attack, and got his first kill of the semester. We decided to call it a day after that.

Tomorrow is the final day. We learn whether the human race survives, or if the zombies take over the campus, and then the world! Last semester the zombies won hands down. I'll let you know tomorrow night what went down. Till tomorrow!

HvZ 2011: Day 3

WEDNESDAY (Previous entry here):

Today, fortunately, was a great day for hunting humans. The sun was bright, the sky was clear, and humans and zombies alike were seen hunting and being hunted. But before I go on about today, let me give you a bit of background info...

Last night, I received a call from my friend (Brandon), saying that there were two possibilities for me to turn human again. One of them was finding a random stormtrooper and asking him the question "What does one snowman say to the other?", and the other was to find one of ten random bottles hidden all over campus (in case you didn't know, my campus is pretty big. So big, in fact, that you can't walk end to end of it in under an hour...OK, 45 minutes). Brandon mentioned that if I turned human again, he was going to loan me his good gun, because he couldn't play this semester due to time constraints.

Me with the scout trooper (not the most flattering pic of me,
but better than nothing. Pics, so it did happen :D)
I got up extra early this morning so I could get to campus as soon as possible. I looked around the bus stop, and didn't see any sign of a bottle or a stormtrooper (I park at literally the furthest end of campus, which is advantageous for providing the most opportunities for sighting bottles / humans / stormtroopers). I asked people sitting beside me on the bus, and fortunately, they were very understanding, and even pointed out the stormtrooper to me (I wouldn't have seen him otherwise). I got off at the next stop, ran balls to the walls to where the stormtrooper was, and asked him the enigmatic question. He responded with "I don't know, you tell me" and then told me the bad news: he was out of vaccines. I realized at that moment that I knew the person in the helmet. Turns out, my friend Brandon was the stormtrooper (well, scout trooper to be precise. Several jokes were made about how many bikes / scooters he'd crashed in the past week). He was very kind and agreed to help me hunt for my only hope at rebirth: the elusive bottles. Also, he was still in his stormtrooper gear, so he had an amazingly handy secondary role: zombie bait.

Brandon drinking his Sprite through his helmet.
I decided that being human was more important than German Cultural Studies (just this once), and decided to spend the afternoon looking around. We walked all across campus, looking in all the possible hidden places. Our biggest setback was Brandon's costume. We couldn't walk anywhere without several people stopping him and asking to take pictures with him. He was very gracious and took it all in stride. It made me miss Con Season so much. He even got a free drink from the cafe, because he was so awesome.

I think the helmet is the best part about this whole picture.
Epic Home Alone face!
At some point, it had to happen. A human, desperate for a free life, ran up to the stormtrooper to ask the magic question. As he was chatting, I hid, trying to sneak attack him. I was just about to pounce, when another zombie ran up and started trying to attack him. He started shooting at the zombie, and I thought I had my opportunity to still be able to sneak attack, but the other zombie got to him before I could tag him. Oh well, one less meal (not the first time I've skipped one :p). Fortunately, it wasn't too much later before another human tried to get a free life. She didn't even see me until after I'd tagged her (and I wasn't even hiding this time. In fact, I didn't notice her until she was asking about snowmen). She looked to Brandon, confident that she was still safe, because she got the question out before I tagged her. Brandon looked almost apologetic (if trooper masks can look apologetic) as he said "Sorry, I'm out of vaccines. Ummm...Welcome to the horde?". I finally got my first blood for the semester.

I did manage to stalk a human on my own without the aid of a costumed medic. Brandon needed to use the restroom (and you can imagine how long it takes to take off armor), and so I was just waiting outside, when I see a human pass by. I decided to follow him. I played the casual game, staying pretty far behind. Just as he was about to enter a building, I attacked. I only managed to dodge one dart before he shot a bullseye at me right in the boob. He seemed genuinely surprised when I handed him his ammo after he stunned me. That made me a little sad, and wondered about the people who are playing this game and taking it a bit too seriously...

My last class of the day has a mandatory attendance policy, so I had to take a break from human hunting. I said goodbye to Brandon and thanked him for his noble work. It was then I discovered that my friend Josh had fallen just before class started. 'Twas beauty and noble friendship that brought him down (his girlfriend and their friends were all chatting outside, and he joined them instead of going inside, and he got sneak attacked). We entered the class together, once again fighting on the same side. The class dragged by slower than usual. I couldn't focus very well on the allomorphs and the suppletion and vowel shifts...All I could think about was getting back outside and finding some humans to nom.

Finally, the class ended, and Josh and I made our way to the main exit...only to see a very large group of humans...and a larger group of zombies. They were all waiting for the other to leave first so the game could begin. Josh and I headed outside and waited for a few minutes, hoping to catch a stray human who wasn't part of the group. We then saw a large group of humans taking the passageway to the next building. We took a guess as to which door in the new building they would come out, and then waited by that door. Time passed, and no humans came. I went inside, and nobody had even seen them come through. I got a call from Josh, saying that the humans were back in the original building and the other zombies had them trapped. We met up with the horde. Half were inside, taunting the humans, and the other half were waiting outside (about 8 of us or so). After waiting for a few minutes, we got impatient and decided to find someone else to hunt.

Fortunately for us, a random human just happened to pass by right as we decided this. 6 of us split into groups of two, and we surrounded him. He was duel-wielding two semi-automatic guns, and had them trained on the original decoy. He saw us appear one by one, and you could see the "oh ch**z-*ts" look cross his face when he realized he was surrounded.

We tightened the circle, and one of us ran in for the attack. The game plan was to make him run out of ammo before we were all stunned for 15 minutes. The first zombie was good at dodging the darts, but he was taken out quickly. The next zombie who ran in got a nice head shot. The third zombie was brilliant. He used his jacket as a shield, and then threw it at the human. A lot of shots were wasted, but he was eventually taken out. I decided to go next. By this time he was down to one gun. He wasted a good 5 or 6 shots, but I miscalculated and he stunned me as I was running in to tag him. He ran out of darts on the next girl, and while his attention was focused on her, the final zombie swooped in and made the kill. As soon as he was turned, we all congratulated him on his epic demise, helped him pick up his darts, and invited him to hunt with us. He readily agreed.

Our horde grew steadily in size, and I somehow started being the one giving the orders for reconnaissance. We canvased the entire campus, but we didn't see another human for the rest of the afternoon (we did run into Brandon again, though, and took a picture of our horde with him and we were all doing the Thriller pose). By the time I got to Boyfriend's office, I was sore, tired, and sunburned beyond belief, but I was so happy. It's games like this where you realize how awesome people really are. You get to make new friends, and bond closely with old friends. Plus, it's combating obesity, one panic-attack-based chase scene after another, and getting hit with a dart is good moral fiber. Anyway, that's all I have to report for today. Until tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

HvZ 2011: Day 2

TUESDAY (Monday here and Intro here):

Unfortunately, this is going to be an incredibly short post today. I did not sight a single human OR zombie the entire time I was out hunting, and there were only 2 humans in one of my classes (one of them is my friend with whom I made a gentleman's agreement), and the other one got away while I was packing my stuff up at the end of class. She did have an awesome weapon though: marshmallows.

There is hope for me though. There are apparently vaccines being handed out if you find the right person and say the right password, so there is a possibility that I'll become human again tomorrow...Wish me luck! Until tomorrow (and hopefully I'll have more to report)...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

HvZ 2011: Day 1

MONDAY (intro here):

My outfit was all prepared last night: If Lara Croft ever entered the Matrix, and the only weapons were Nerf guns, I imagine her outfit would have looked similar to mine. I was feeling pretty good about this semester's battle. I was duel wielding two semi-automatic Nerf (well, Buzz Bee, but who's keeping track) guns, my sock bombs were prepared, my bandanna was wrapped around my arm and my duct tape was clearly marking that I was a human member of the resistance. I got up extra early so I wouldn't be ganked on the way to class.

I caught the bus and got to my first class without incident. My Chinese teacher took one of my guns and tried to shoot a student with it, but fortunately missed. He seemed very surprised when the dart hit the back wall of the classroom and stuck there (at least 30 feet). He quickly returned my gun. I had to get the wayward ammo myself.

After class, I had a "civilian" friend of mine as an escort so I could get a good heads up on any zombie sightings. We decided to building hop, because the building we were heading to is a zombie hotbed. Along the way, we ran into one of my roommates who was also building hopping, and happened to be heading in the same direction as us (she was a human as well; this is the girl who got attacked on the way to the rendezvous point last semester).

We somehow made it to the SLC (Student Learning Center, our final destination for a while). My civilian friend quickly went home so he could register to play with us, because he had so much fun running escort duty. My roommate (Allie) and I met up with our other roommate (Wayne), who happened to be a zombie (we were fortunately in a safe zone, so he couldn't turn us). As we were waiting for him, a pack (herd?) of zombies walked by, taunting Allie and I. Their threats didn't scare us while we were inside.

 Fortunately, the rest of my afternoon was spent in the same building (I have two classes there, and I typically spend my spare time on Mondays in the building anyway, so I was safe for several hours thanks to my normal schedule). Finally, after an eternity of classes and waiting, it was time to venture out into the dangerous wilds of zombie-horde-land. I gave my civilian-turned-compatriot (Josh) my spare gun, and we decided to run an escort mission for this little Freshman boy who was clearly new to the whole game, but really needed to get to class. We start walking and sneaking around, only to be spotted by a pack of zombies.

We make a run for it into a nearby parking deck. The boys got further ahead of me because I decided to play a sneaking game instead of full-on running. There were only two zombies chasing us at the time, and I managed to stun both of them and temporarily escape. My hunting buddies escaped with their lives, and the stunned zombies called for backup on their walkie talkies. I ran around the corner, only to find 4 more zombies. My back was to the wall. I managed to stun another one, but I was cornered, and was turned before I could stun anymore. I'm proud of my turning though. I managed to save my friend and the noob, and I took out half of the zombie posse surrounding me (all of whom were guys, btw), and went down in a blaze of glory.

I tried to hunt after that, but didn't see any more humans for the rest of the day. I rendezvoused with my friend in a neutral zone, and gave him my other gun (I didn't need it anymore). We have a gentleman's agreement: he won't shoot me with my own guns, and I promise to count to ten and not pay attention to which direction he's going when he runs away from me. Allie managed to survive today, and Wayne and I are plotting (well, Wayne's trying, at any rate)...

So that's all from me today. Sorry if the grammar and coherence of this post aren't the best...I did turn into a zombie today. So, until tomorrow....


Monday, April 4, 2011

HvZ 2011

So, since I'm having a bit of difficulty trying to get the superblog put together, I figured I'd do something a little different while you're so patiently (heh) waiting.

Tomorrow morning (or I guess later today, technically) begins the second semester of Humans vs. Zombies. I will once again be participating, and I'm going to try and survive as long as possible. I'll be posting at the end of each day my adventures for all of you to enjoy, instead of writing one long synopsis at the end of the week like last time (I seem to be having some trouble with longer posts lately). Anyway, wish me luck! I'll see you tomorrow!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

I think I might have a slight eating disorder...

This is kind of a hard confession I have to make, so please bear with me...

I've been on a diet since I was 12. After I got the chicken pox (I got them at a relatively late age), I suddenly realized I was fat. My mom encouraged me to go on a diet. From then until I was 16, I would drink Slim Fasts for breakfast and lunch. After that, I stopped eating breakfast and lunch. I'd have good days and bad days--A good day was when I was successfully not able to gorge myself at dinnertime and eat a small, "healthy" meal. Unfortunately, most days were bad days: I'd eat until I was full. During the summer it was almost always worse, because my stepmom is a health nut and is always trying to make us "eat right".

Snacking was (and still is) my weakness. If I'm at home, and there's food nearby, I'm going to eat it. Cheez-its are the bane of my existence (I often use the name as a swear word when I'm really frustrated about something, hence the title of my blog). I discovered pickles in my senior year. They don't have any calories (something I've always counted), so I can eat as many as I want without "consequences".

When college came around, I got to experience dining hall food (which at my school is noted for being really good). I lived off of Life cereal and yellow Powerade. If I had a test, I'd go to the 24 hour dining hall and get some bacon and eggs. That's pretty much it. When I sprained my ankle my sophomore year, I couldn't walk, much less exercise, so I ended up gaining a lot of weight (around 15 pounds, I think). When I posted a picture on a music forum, they ended up tearing me to shreds in regards to my weight and my acne. Any confidence I had went out the window with that. To exacerbate the situation, my boyfriend (at the time) was constantly telling me that I needed to lose weight, about how much sexier I'd be if I'd just be skinnier and had a tighter ass.

When I moved to Germany for a year, I didn't eat anything (I'm a picky eater naturally, and German food and I didn't really get along all that well), except for a tiny snack in the evening. I also walked everywhere, so I ended up losing about 15 pounds. I was thrilled. Then I got the swine flu, and ended up losing 15 more pounds. I was even more thrilled. My friends would make jokes about how I never ate anything, but it always seemed like I was eating too much all the time. I was afraid for the rest of the year that I would gain too much weight and lose all my "sexiness".

I've been back in the States for about 6 months now, and I've definitely gained weight. And I'm really not ok with it. I keep trying to exercise and eat well, but exercising makes you hungry, so I end up eating more than before I started exercising.

I've never eaten anything without feeling guilty about it. I know that I have a problem (though it really kinda took a friend pointing it out to me), and the rational me keeps telling me that I'm perfectly fine the way I am, and if someone doesn't like me when I'm not completely skinny, then they're not worth my time.

But the voices of my ex, my family, and all the people who've called me fat and ugly (and there are plenty more of those than people who've said I'm pretty / just fine the way I am) are so much louder, and sound so much more truthful to me. So I feel fat as I eat my piece of bread for dinner, and try my best to just lose 30 more pounds ("ideal" weight for my size is 110 pounds), and maybe I'll feel pretty again and people will think I'm sexy.

tl;dr - I'm trying to accept my body, but I'm somewhat anorexic (plus bingeing), and it's hard to change. Thanks for reading my rant.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Trip to Prague

Sooo...Sorry about this very very late posting. My school schedule has been absolutely murderous lately, and I've literally had no time to even think about things other than school, much less be able to participate in any activities that could be described as "fun". However, I'm procrastinating from doing some of my homework in order to provide my two (or is it three now?) readers with something entertaining (at least to me) to read. So now, I shall now impart the story of one of my trips while I was abroad. 

Prague is officially known as Bohemia. So, really, it's
no surprise there's art like this there...
My trip to Prague is one of the best experiences despite really crappy circumstances of my life. This was the first big trip that my close inner circle of friends (except for one) would all be able to go on together. We booked our flight and hostel a month in advance. We planned to spend 5 full days there, in order to get the full experience of Prague, and since we were on break from school, the timing couldn't be better.

The night before we were supposed to fly out, I had a minor...something on the bus on the way home from hanging out with my friends. All I know is that I suddenly got extremely hot (keep in mind it was mid-March in Germany: there was snow on the ground and it was well below freezing), and my vision faded into this dark fuzziness. This lasted for what seemed an eternity (though in actuality must have been less than a minute), and then, just as suddenly, it completely disappeared and I felt fine again. I brushed it off, went to my room, packed, and went to sleep.

I woke up at around 6am with an urgent need to vomit, and the most familiar feeling of fever chills. Fortunately, we didn't have to leave for the airport until the afternoon, so I slept on and off the rest of the morning. When the time came for me to head to the airport, I was still feeling very sick. I forced myself to get up, get dressed, and go to the bus stop. I was running late, and almost missed the shuttle. Fortunately my friends were looking out for me and made sure the bus didn't leave without me. I don't remember the ride to the airport, nor the actual flight (except for this one moment where I looked out the window and it looked like we were in a Star Wars-esque warp drive thanks to the snowfall). I remember landing, and having to walk all over the airport because we had to wait for 20 years on a bus (it really did feel like that long, I swear). I was still feeling the fever chills and the general miserableness (fortunately, I didn't feel nauseous again). While we were waiting, we decided to go withdraw money from an ATM (we'd discovered that the easiest way to exchange money while losing the least amount through profit-seekers was to just directly pull from our American bank accounts through various ATMs), only to discover that my card didn't work in any of the ATMs at the airport. We figured it just didn't like my one card, so we didn't think anything of it.

View of the (what we called) "The Wall of Souls" from
the castle.
 Finally, our bus arrived, which delivered us to the subway station. From there, we had to guess which direction was the right one (the signs were notoriously ambiguous, and we argued for a long time on which way the signs were supposed to be read). Unfortunately, we picked wrong. Fortunately, we were at the end of the line, so it just went around and we were suddenly going the right direction again. At this point, all I can remember is that the subway ride would never ever end. My friends wouldn't let me fall asleep, either, which I thought was especially cruel of them. When we arrived at our designated station, we suddenly realized that the street signs weren't easily seen nor read, so we had no idea where we were really supposed to go. Fortunately, a very nice British lady who happened to live in Prague heard our confused arguments about which way we should go and took pity on us, and kindly directed us to the proper street where our hostel was.

View of Prague from the castle.
It was by far not the nicest hostel I've ever stayed at, but for the price, we couldn't really complain. The six of us got our own room to ourselves. We quickly all picked our beds for the week, and I plopped in mine and fell asleep, despite the fact that it was only 9pm or so. I was fortunate to sleep through the night, but I remember being so cold and that whatever my dreams were, they were the deranged fever dreams of someone who probably shouldn't have traveled.

Yep. 'Tis art.
I woke up the next day still feeling feverish, but not quite as dead as the day before. We got dressed, and made our first venture into Prague. I was still feeling out of it, so I missed most of the picture taking opportunities that day. It was also this day that we discovered that our good friend Kenny has a very serious coffee addiction. On our way to breakfast, we had to stop at coffee shop so Kenny could drink coffee while we walked to another bakery, where he also had another cup of coffee. The poor guy didn't hear the end of it for the rest of the trip. We also saw the astronomical clock tower, and generally acquainted ourselves with the city. We decided that for dinner we should have...Thai food. What better way to get a taste for the Czech culture, right? After that, my friends headed to an absinthe bar, and I went back to the hostel to collapse. The day had been very long and I literally had no energy left.

Imagine seeing this when you aren't
expecting it. It's just a great big bowl of
I woke up the next day drenched in sweat and full of energy. At last, whatever had descended upon me had finally decided to relinquish its grip. I walked out into the city with a spring in my step, and actually looked at my surroundings. I was in a place that had so much history, and such beautiful architecture. We went up to the castle, and there I saw the most beautiful church I've ever seen in my life. I'm not religious by any means, but the architecture was so vast and so intricate, it literally made me well up a little bit. Unfortunately, none of the pictures really do it justice, so I just sound a bit crazy. We spent most of the day exploring the castle grounds (it was a lot more expansive than we originally thought).

Legit fountain in Prague.
 Towards the evening time, we headed back to the riverside and went to the Kafka Museum. There we saw what I consider to be one of the most amusing fountains I've ever seen in my life: 2 men peeing into the  fountain, and their hips move to the left and right and their penises move up and down (please youtube this to get the full effect). The inside of the museum was awesome, but pretty creepy. I imagine that if you've actually read Kafka's works, you'd get all the little jokes they put in. The philosopher in our group (Chris) looked like he was in heaven, but our online gamer friend (Josh, otherwise self-nicknamed Jooshwah) basically trolled the whole time. I had the most fun watching Chris trying to get Josh to comprehend and absorb the culture of the museum.

Prague castle and Charles Bridge at night.
We spent most of our time walking. We never once took public transit once we were in the city proper (and then, the only time we ever actually rode a bus or subway was to get to and from the airport). We walked along the famous Charles Bridge, we wandered to and from the main city square, and we explored the back alleyways where you got to see a glimpse of what real Prague looked like. It was truly the best way to see the city, because you got to experience as well as sight-see. One of the most harrowing experiences was getting to see an actual Jewish ghetto. My main regret (besides Josh making very loud racist Jew jokes) was that I didn't take the Jewish experience class until after I got back from Germany. If I'd taken it before, then maybe I'd been better able to appreciate what I was really seeing. Also, I'd imagine being completely healthy would have also helped that.

Not really all that big.
Also, remember how I said that the ATMs at the airport wouldn't take my card? Turns out, that was a nation-wide dilemma. Fortunately, I had the sense to bring some emergency Euros just in case something like that happened, and I was able to survive the entire time on less than 50 Euros (of course, being sick for part of the time really helped cut down food costs as well).

Prague playground.
Our last day in Prague we decided to go on an adventure. We'd seen this tower thing on one of the mountain-sides the entire time we were there, and we decided to go see what it was all about. As it turned out, it was the Eiffel Tower of Prague (yes, that's the actual name). They wanted a ridiculous amount of money to go up to the top (which in all honesty wasn't that high), and since we were all broke college students, we decided to just "ooh" and "aah" from the ground. The grounds surrounding the tower, however, were much more fun. We found a playground, and since Ashley and I are both 5 at heart, we both decided to play on it. It's a lot different from today's American playgrounds; there were actually fun things to play on. 

Ashley "preggers" with Beverly Joe...
Finally, after five days of exploring and playing around, it was time to return back to Germany. We gathered our things from the hostel, and figured out how to get back to the airport without getting lost. We made it through security, and were waiting for our plane to arrive, when Ashley all of a sudden realized that she had too much stuff (if you've ever traveled Ryanair, you'll know all about this problem. For those of you who haven't: You're only allowed one carry-on item. That's all. Anything more, and you have to pay a €35 fee to check your bag. All in all, not fun.). So, her primary solution was to suddenly become about 6 months pregnant with little "Beverly Joe". With that solution, we were on our way.

When we arrived, Ashley and I waved goodbye to our friends as they returned to Heidelberg. However, our adventure still wasn't over. We took a bus to another airport, and spent the night there. We had an early morning flight to Amsterdam so we could see Epica again...

I really wish I could remember everything we did while we were in Prague. Unfortunately, I'm writing this up a year after it happened, and even then I was in a fever haze for part of the trip, so some of the details are fuzzy. Other things I've deliberately left out (such as playing truth or dare one night in our room. Trust me, some things are better off left alone). 

I'm so sorry for putting this out so late!!! I've literally been writing this post for two weeks now. I'm just so completely swamped with everything lately that I have no time to do anything fun. Hopefully I'll start being able to post more often soon. Till next time!!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Top 10 Books on my Bookshelf

My bookshelf
As a person who didn't exactly have a lot of friends growing up, I have acquired a good number of books throughout the years. Now that I'm in college and have a house of my own, I've begun the task of moving my books from my mom's house to my new one. I generally bring a few back (anywhere from around 5-10) whenever I go home to visit (I'm loath to take all of them at once, because my mom's house doesn't have internet nor cable / satellite, and I need something to do while I'm there). So far, I've almost filled up one bookshelf with my books and DVDs, and it's only a small portion of my collection.

As I was thinking about what I should write next, I decided that I should share some of my favorite books with all 5 of my loyal readers. These span from my early childhood when my best friend was whatever protagonist who happened to be having the adventure I was reading at the moment, to more recent years when I needed a book to escape from all the stress that my classes put on me. So, without further ado, here are 10 books which I'd recommend for you to read. I'll try to keep the descriptions short and as spoiler free as possible (though admittedly, it's not as if any of the books on here haven't been out for years already. But still, just in case, I'll be nice).

10. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Ahh, the book that launched vampires as a pop culture icon. This book brought the undead to life, and inspired other incarnations of the bloodthirsty creatures, from the emo and tragically misunderstood vampires of Anne Rice, to the sparkly abominations that plague us today, thanks to Twilight and slightly pubescent girls the world over (I saw it in Germany, too. Blech).

This tale is written in epistolary form: every chapter is either a diary entry, newspaper clipping, or a "transcription" from a phonograph record. It follows the tale of Jonathan Harker, his fiancée Mina, Abraham van Helsing, and of course the infamous Dracula. The novel sets the tone for the "traditional" vampire (if not originally thought up by Stoker, at least definitely popularized by him), which has been only in the last few years challenged. It's because of Dracula that we think vampires change into bats, hate garlic, and aren't too fond of sunlight (though it's not lethal).

Why I liked it:

I was originally assigned this book in my AP English class my senior year. I'd always been fascinated by vampires (though now even liking vampires is kinda considered a taboo...Stupid Twilight), and was at the time reading the Anne Rice series. This book was fascinating in the sense that it was still a spooky story even by today's standards. It was also fascinating to see the culture of English society in the late 19th century, and how they dealt with something (err...someone) who survived on human blood, and still looked so fashionable and proper doing so.

9. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux 

This novel tells the story of chorus dancer turned opera star Christine Daae, her mysterious "Angel of Music" Erik, and her childhood friend / lover Raoul. This book takes place in Paris also in the late 19th century. It is more of a love story, though it is filled with darker aspects, like torture, and murder, and fire. Basically, Erik taught Christine how to sing, and fell in love with her in the process. She's in love with Raoul, and Raoul's in love with her, and Erik's really not happy about that, and since he's not exactly the stablest of people in the mental department, hijinks ensue.

Why I liked it:

This is another case of modern factors driving me back to the source. I adored the soundtrack from the actual opera ever since I heard the singer hit that really high note in the title track "Phantom of the Opera" when I was in the 5th grade. When the movie came out, my love for it was renewed, and I decided to check out the original story. The book ended up being way better (plot-wise...music-wise, it was a little silent for my tastes) than the movie, and I fell in love all over again.

8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

This book is a fancy retelling of Cinderella; however, you probably won't really recognize that fact until much later in the book when she calls herself "Cinders". Cinders + Ella = mind blown. Well, at least if you're a 6th grader, which is how old I was when I first read the book. Ella is a girl who can say that obedience is her curse. Literally. She was given a "gift" by a fairy at birth, where she must always do what she's commanded to do, no matter what. Hijinks ensue.

Why I liked it:

Well, what nerdy girl wouldn't love a fairy tale fantasy story where the heroine is strong and funny and relatable? It has ogres, and fairies, and elves, and wicked stepmothers and stepsisters, and naturally a prince as well. It's a great story for younger girls, and Ella is a much better role model than Bella will ever be.

7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This particular story is about a girl who was raped and murdered (don't worry, it's not a spoiler). It's told from her perspective while she's watching her family from heaven. She follows the lives of her loved ones and how they fall apart due to her death, but they slowly pull themselves back together again.

Why I liked it:

My older sister read this book first for a college class, and then gave it to me because "It's a weird book, Nina. You'd like it." (apparently I am an aficionado for all things weird and eccentric, because that's probably one of the most common phrases I hear coming out of my family's mouths). However, she was very right. I don't know why this book compels me, but it does. There's something so stark about it, and the emotions of the characters feel so real. You feel genuine shock at some of the events in the book, and you'd better not have anything better to do, because it's not a book that can be easily put down.

6. The Godspeaker Trilogy by Karen Miller
Empress, The Riven Kingdom, and Hammer of God

I know this is technically cheating because it's three books instead of one, but oh well. It's all one story, and it's hard to read one without reading them all. These books follow the story of two civilizations, one that has a bloodthirsty god that provides miracles at the price of bloodshed, and another who has a benevolent god that isn't seen, but people believe in him through blind faith. This story is about their main prophets. The first one starts off with a girl who is being sold off into slavery named Hekat, and how she goes from a mere slave all the way to empress (The title of the first book is called Empress, and if you can't draw conclusions that simple, then perhaps you should be going back to Dr. Seuss and Dick and Jane), thanks to her bloodthirsty god. The second story involves a toymaker, and the queen of the very England-esque island that they live on. The toymaker starts seeing the specter of his dead wife, and he ends up becoming a prophet for his god. The third book is about the war between these two nations (turns out, bloodthirsty gods like war and invasion. Who knew?).

Why I liked it:

I'm not a religious person, but I find mythology fascinating. To me, it provided a "what if?" situation where the gods of the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians were combined into a super-god, and he was pitted against the Christian God of the Victorian Era of England. There were also some interesting linguistic aspects involved with the constructed language of Mijak (but I won't bore you with my nerdgasms about languages). The story is well written, and completely captivated me from start to finish. I picked the story out because the books were huge, and I knew they'd entertain me for the 9 hour flight to Germany I was about to take.

5. From the Corner of his Eye by Dean Koontz

Of all of Dean Koontz's books that I've read (and I went through a phase of where I read nothing else, so that's quite a few books of his), I've only ever reread one, and it was this one. It's the story of a boy who is incredibly intelligent, a little girl who was the byproduct of rape, their families, a psychopathic killer, and a really awesome cop. This story delves into quantum mechanics, and the almost supernatural edge of science fiction. It tells the lives of these people, and forces the reader to become a part of these seemingly disconnected people who are united due to external circumstances.

Why I liked it:

The writing style in Koontz's novels only improve with time. Each book of his that I read was more enticing, more haunting, and more intelligent than the last. This book introduced me to quantum mechanics, as well as a lot of other little useless bits of trivia thanks to two characters' neuroses. Koontz also has a gift to make you root for whomever the perspective is currently on. If you're reading from the killer's perspective, you want him to kill. You want him to outsmart the cop. But when the tables turn and you're reading from the cop's perspective, you want him to nab that psychopath and put him in jail and maybe even fry him in the chair. It's a wonderful reading experience that is not for the faint of heart.

4. Mort by Terry Pratchett

Let me start by discussing Discworld. This is a very elaborate series that satirist Terry Pratchett has created to the delight of the masses. There are several character sets in this world, and though they are all independent of each other, they do interact occasionally. There's the Night Watch set, the Wizards set, the Witches set, and, my personal favorite, the Death set. Mort is the beginning of Death timeline. Death is probably one of the most hilarious characters in the Discworld series (my favorite book in the Death timeline is actually Soul Music, but apparently that particular book hasn't made it up to Athens yet). Each book pokes fun at something or another, and it's all cleverly done.

Why I liked it:

These books were the first I've ever literally laughed aloud at. The characters are charming and engaging, despite being hopelessly flawed and / or depressed. Also, Death likes cats, and any character that likes cats is a friend of mine. In all honesty, you should read all of these books, as soon as possible. You will thank me later.

3. The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command

Forget George Lucas. Forget those silly prequels. I personally like to call these books Episodes 7, 8, and 9, respectively. These books take place 5 years after Return of the Jedi, and it's showing the struggle of a fledgling government, and the Imperial armada that opposes them at every turn. The fleet is led by Admiral Thrawn, who in all honesty could probably give Vader a bit of competition in the awesome bad guy department. He is always a step ahead of the New Republic, and proves to be a formidable enemy indeed.

Why I liked it:

It felt like I was reading a movie, or three. Zahn is incredibly talented and painting a picture in your mind's eye that remains true to the positive aspects of the old trilogy, while still bringing something fresh and new to the table. It's a series that I'd recommend to anyone who wants a good read and enjoys any kind of sci fi, Star Wars or not.

2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

I'm sure it's no surprise that Harry made the list. My favorite in the series is tied between this one and the Goblet of Fire. This book is kinda representative of the whole series though, in all honesty. So, this book takes place in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, where stuff isn't going so well thanks to people being petrified left and right. Then suddenly, Harry starts hearing voices in the walls talking about killing. Hijinks ensue. (In all honesty, between the books and the movies, I'm 99% sure you already know all about this book, so I'm not really going to delve into it any further).

Why I liked it:

This book was actually the first I read in the series. My younger sister was obsessed with it, and since her teacher read the first book to her class, she had mom buy the second one so she could find out what happened next (this was back when there were only 3 out). I couldn't sleep one night, and I wanted to find out what the fuss was about, so I read the first three chapters. I fell in love, but I had no idea what was going on, because I still hadn't read the first one yet. I decided to wait until I read the prequel before I finished the Chamber of Secrets. 11 years later (wow, has it really been that long?), I play Quidditch for my school, and this past release was the first midnight showing I've ever missed. Needless to say, I'm a bit obsessed. I've read the first 4 books upwards of 10 times each, and they still don't get old.

and the number one book is...

1. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Who doesn't know the story of Frodo and the Ring of Power? Who hasn't followed him on his quest to Mount Doom so he could destroy it? Any nerd worth his or her salt has either read this book (preferably several times) or at the very least watched the movies.

Why I liked it:

I'm not going to lie. Up until I was 13 years old, I hated Tolkien. I made the mistake of watching the ghastly cartoon The Hobbit when I was little, and it scared the crap out of me. I then vowed never to read or watch anything Tolkienian again (HAH). When I was in the 8th grade, I had to read The Hobbit as a class assignment. I put up a fight and resisted liking it...until I got about halfway through, and suddenly couldn't put it down. In that class I went from being the Tolkien hater to being the leader of hobbit knowledge. This was also around the time that the movies were coming out (in fact, The Two Towers came out a month after we finished the reading assignment), and we watched the first one in class. After that, there was no going back: I was in love. I read the whole Lord of the Rings before I went to see the second movie, and have read it every year ever since, always around Christmas. This year, however, I wasn't able to. Last year, I was silly enough to leave my well loved copy on the airplane, never to be seen again. I didn't get a replacement until this year as a Christmas present, so my yearly reading is just going to be a bit late.

I put this book at number one, because this book directly influenced my career choice. I attempted to learn Quenya (high Elvish), and I discovered that Tolkien was a masterful linguist who constructed several languages. In fact, this book was created so he could use his languages, not the other way around. I started studying languages as well, and have since focused on slang and constructed languages. I'm far from writing my own language, but it might be an option someday.

Thanks for reading this very long post! Hope you enjoyed it!