Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

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What is it? Big Sur Edition

The challenge today is to identify the object or objects in this picture. I will post the full photograph and others from the same location tomorrow, but for now I ask just one question:

What is it?

Share your best guess in the comments below!

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100 Followers!

As the title of this post implies, I have 100 followers. (Actually, between when that happened and when I actually got around to starting this post, I got two more. So now I have 102 followers!)

Anyways, I’d like to thank you all for following my blog. I hope you are still enjoying reading my posts as much as you did when you first started reading, however long ago as that may have been. I’m still loving sharing, so don’t expect me to disappear anytime soon!

With this new milestone, I have a few request for you, my lovely readers:

1. What do you like to read? By this, I mean, what is your favorite type of post I write? Let me know, because I’d love to write more about the things you like to read about. Or – if there is a style of post you like to read that I don’t write, tell me! I like expanding my horizons and trying new things. Please comment below!

2. What do you dislike about my blog? Visually, the way I have it organized, whatever. I’m thinking about forking over the money to have the cool upgrades WordPress lets you have, and I want to know which upgrades I’d want to take advantage of. Once again, let me know by commenting below!

3. You’re following me, which means there must be something about my blog that you enjoy. If you can take the time, please please please tell your friends about me! Post a link to my homepage on facebook. Remember that one post that made you think of someone specific? Send it to them! Share me with your friends. After all, Shared Joy is Twice the Joy!

Thanks again, and stick around!

TBTW: When It’s a Jar by Tom Holt

When it’s a jar, it can’t be a door. Or can it? Perhaps, actually it’s a donut.

Believe it or not, all of this could make sense to you, if you only read Tom Holt’s When It’s a Jar. This is one of those books in which nothing makes sense, and that is exactly how it’s supposed to be. Holt’s writing style, however, holds everything together, and makes it really hard to put the book down. In fact, I finished the book and didn’t even put it down as I put my shoes on to go recommend it to a friend. Literally.

Maurice lives a normal life. With the exception of the dragon he kills with a butter knife (it was handy!) and the fact that looking through a donut causes him to travel to another universe in the multiverse. As we follow Maurice from one universe to another, it gets a bit difficult. He visits a dozen or so. I think. I’m not sure. I tried to count but quickly lost track.

Regardless, each universe includes Maurice (in some way, shape, or form), his crush Stephanie, either a room filled with cardboard boxes or a jar (or both), a childhood frenemy George, and Theo Bernstein. I’ll be really honest, I’m still not totally sure what happens in this book. I’m pretty sure I could read it again and again and again (which I’d love to do, but it is due back at the library soon) and I still wouldn’t understand everything that was going on. But the prose… oh my goodness the prose. And the intelligent, tongue-in-cheek comments. And. Oh my.

Page 19: “Time passed some more, like a hamster on a wheel, and he figured out a bit more of the basic elementary stuff, like existentialism and relativity.”

17899387It’s only the first section, and I’m already laughing out loud while I sit outside a restaurant waiting for my friends. They proceed to laugh when I read it to them, because I can’t help but brag about how great this book already is. Little did I know it would only get better:

“Without thinking, he started tidying the place up …. And then he stopped and thought: Yes, and there’s a dead dragon in the bedroom. True, but that was no reason to leave the rest of the place looking like a pigsty, not when you’ve got a girl coming around.”  (41)

We start with some casual attention grabbing, I know physics kind of nonsense. I’ll be honest, I thought the author was a physicist and an author on the side when I read that. Primarily because a lot of physicists I know are also obsessed with philosophy, so the idea of existentialism and relativity being paired up isn’t really so absurd to me. But then, 20 pages later, he throws in some commentary about the lack of logic we use when a crush is involved. So perhaps Holt is actually a psychologist? In fact, he’s just British (and a lawyer by training, if not by practice.)

Very often, unfortunately, books are phenomenal for the first 30-50 pages and then everything goes downhill. Luckily for us, this isn’t the case with When It’s a Jar. Because Holt keeps up the incredible number of references to anything and everything throughout the novel, and it feels a bit like a Gilmore Girls episode. (The only thing that could have been better would have been an explicit mention of Gilmore Girls in the book…) Towards the middle, we discover the linguistic necessity for a word of “deliberate offence:”

“It’d have to start with a suitably projectile labial, followed by a vowel you could really put your hear and soul into, and terminating in a throaty guttural you could practically spit. Also, one syllable would be best. ANything longer would dissipate the effect.

Oh fulk, he thought.”

Throw in a bit of linguistic literacy, and I realize that Tom Holt has basically written the novel that I always dreamed I’d be able to write. I could be angry about this fact. I can’t even be angry. Instead I’m off to the library to see what else of his I can grab. The problem with libraries is that they’re so big, and I tend to get distracted… but I think I’m likely to come out with another Tom Holt book – perhaps his other 2013 novel: Donought. (Did I mention he’s British?)

 

Sibs

Off and on, I look at the weekly photo and writing challenges at The Daily Post. Sometimes they serve as inspiration for the future, but I rarely act on them, and I’ve definitely never completed the challenge within the week like I’m supposed to. But this week’s challenge was “Leftovers,” and I was encouraged to go back in history, drudge up an old post I wrote but never published, and reinvent it for publication. So here it is:


Dear K. McC.,

Do you remember when we would walk up the hill to that funky tree, with the moss growing across the top and just enough horizontal space for the two of us and our lunch boxes in between? We would go up there every week for sib lunch, but we went up there just the two of us with incredible regularity. We sat face to face, sharing our sandwiches and fruit, telling stories and making memories. We complained about teachers and friends, gave advice (as much advice as twelve to thirteen year olds really can give, that is), and talked about anything and everything. And I loved you for it.

I remember the next year, when we had new sibs, and we loved spending time with them. But I also remember remembering the tree, wishing we could go up there again. I remember remembering our first sib lunch ever, up in Ashland. We almost got back late, which was a tragic idea, even though it never came to fruition. I remember getting postcards from you, and sending them too. I remember the little Japanese bag filled with important things passed down from sib to sib.

I remember so many strange but super specific details about our time in middle school. Do you remember the day I slept over at your house? We slept on the floor of your living room, and we spent a solid ten minutes talking about the pros and cons of wearing a bra to bed. I still think its crazy, by the way. I remember your slicked back, perfect hair every single day, and the absolutely gorgeous hair you had for your recital performance. And that you wore your hair in curlers to school for the whole day! I was so impressed by your commitment, by your intelligence, by your kindness to me. I looked up to you like I had never looked up to anybody else. I thought you were my hero, but we were simply friends. I don’t think I realized that was what a good friend looks like.

I wonder what you remember about me from middle school. We met each other more than 10 years ago, and sometimes it seems much shorter, but sometimes it seems much longer. I wonder if your memories of me from middle school are as romanticized as I’m sure mine are. I wonder how my life would have been different if I hadn’t gone to middle school with you. Just as often, I wonder what would have happened if I had followed you to Castilleja for high school. Did you know I wanted to do that? I begged my parents, but they flatly refused. (Well, not really. They just said they wouldn’t pay for college if they had to pay for private high school. Even at the end of eighth grade, I knew the best answer to that conundrum.)

Would we have stayed closer? If we would have seen each other more than once every couple of years, if we would know more about each other’s lives and goals and struggles? But then we have coffee. And its as if we never left. Yes, there are lots of things to talk about, and an hour never seems like long enough, but it also never feels awkward. Sometimes, even with my best friends from high school – friends that just 2 years ago I would have sworn we would be friends forever - we have awkward lulls and just have nothing to talk about. But with you, I never feel like thats a problem, and I never feel like its ever even getting close.

I texted you a couple days ago, and your life is as busy as ever. I get snippets of your life from facebook, but I really don’t know that much. I know enough to be envious of the fact that you know what you want to do and that you’re well on your way. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a boyfriend or been devastated by a test. We’re making plans to get coffee again, and I can’t wait. I know that we’ll pick right up where we left off last time, start with some insignificant discussion of our common friends and then – within five minutes – be talking about things I wouldn’t discuss with the vast majority of my friends, or my mom.

Sometimes I’ll write you a letter, and every so often I decide to send you something out of the blue. But in a way, I cherish our distance, because it means that getting to see each other face to face, to hug and smile, to laugh and maybe cry, means that much more. It means I get to imagine your life when we’re not near each other, and I get to remember all the good times we had and look forward to our chance meetings in the future. It gives me a perspective on our relationship that I think I need because – face it – we’re too similar. If we’d actually gone to the same high school, we would have had some massive fight and decided to never ever see each other again. Because we think the same way and we have the same strengths and weaknesses; these things that make it easy to jump back in to conversations after a year or two apart would make it almost impossible to have conversations every day.

It is my hope that you enjoy our relationship as much as I do. I know that it’s a strange sort of relationship. I have close friends now in college I think of much the way I thought of you in middle school, but I honestly think that our friendship was the first real friendship – in an adult, real person sort of way – I ever had. So thanks for that.

-K

Five Photos, Five Stories

Stanford Sierra Camp runs Saturday to Saturday, and is filled from start to finish with lots of fun experiences. (I wrote about camp last year here, here, and here.) I promised that I would write more about camp, so I’m going to write five stories here. I’m picking my stories by picking the photos to accompany them. These are my five favorite photos from camp, and five resultant stories:

DSC_02881. Campfire.

Every Wednesday evening is the conclusion of Beach Day – a campfire complete with camp songs and s’mores. Let’s be honest here, most of my favorite songs ever are the songs we sing at the campfire every year, and I love love love the opportunity to sit on the beach, stare out over the lake, and watch the sun set to the tune of Puff the Magic Dragon and Wagon Wheel. And we obviously always finish with I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane.

I took this photo at the end of campfire, of a marshmallow my dad had roasted, with the lake and sunset in the background. The s’more that came out of that marshmallow was fabulous, by the way.

DSC_01792. Camp hair.

All the SSC counselors are Stanford undergrad students, which means that I am exactly the right age to be a counselor. Combine that with the reality that a) I’ve been going to camp for years and years and know my way around and b) I like kids, and you can understand why kids think I’m a counselor and consequently ask me all sorts of questions. Over the course of the week, I got asked where to put dirty glasses between meals, whether or not the fountain was open, where specific kids’ groups met, etc. etc. It also meant that they didn’t question if I wanted to take pictures of them, because they just assumed I was one of the staff photographers. (Oops?)

When I was growing up, my hair was all over the place. Lots of fly-aways, lots of tangles. Lots of all the things we try to limit as we get a bit older. And being at camp is no different; for the first couple days of camp I tried to keep the fly-aways, well, away. And then I just gave up. My brother tried to tease me about it by saying “You look like a counselor!” I had the camp-y hair, the casual shorts and t-shirt so common around camp, and the dark tan of a few days/weeks in the sun. But the thing is, camp hair, and being compared to a counselor, is maybe the best thing that you could ever call me.

This girl was on the ski dock with a bunch of her friends, fishing for crawdads, as is traditional at Camp. I love the parallel between her frizzies and the fraying rope.

DSC_00773. Wildlife.

Camp is a bit outside the city, which means that there are birds, squirrels, and the occasional bear. Honestly, there isn’t actually that much wildlife, but the wildlife we do get to see is wonderful. And the trees are amazing, and the stars are soooo bright, and generally, nature is beautiful. That’s it, I guess. Ducks!

There are a lot of floating docks around camp, and this duck was chilling out on one just behind my family’s cabin at the edge of camp. I’m not sure what it was looking at, but I kinda wish I knew…

DSC_01054. Family.

At its heart, Stanford Sierra Camp is a family camp. As kids grow up, they tend to abandon their families at home, but somehow they come back at SSC. We sleep in a little cabin together, we eat dinner together (sometimes), we eat breakfast together (often), we do crafts together, go sailing together, go hiking together, throw eggs at each other…

These guys were waiting for Mom before they walked back from Beach Day, which thoroughly exhausted the youngest. She was nearly asleep, until her big sister gave her a kiss on the top of her head; then her eyes popped open and looked right at me.

DSC_00605. The Plunge.

A week 4 tradition, The Plunge is a little bit like a Polar Bear Swim, if you know what that is… Long story short, everyone wakes up and heads down to the lake at 7:30 Friday morning. 200+ people jump into the lake at once (more or less) and then yell out “Oooh! That’s cold” before racing out of the lake as fast as physically possible. This year, we beat our record once again (last year was 222, this year was 234). But my favorite part of The Plunge was a more personal moment. I jumped in, and was freezing cold, ready to hop out. But I looked up onto the dock, and a little girl – maybe 9? – was standing there, too scared to jump in herself. So I stayed there, treading water, and held my arms up to her, much like you would to a little kid climbing out of a tree. I told her I’d be there and help her get out of the water, and her dad would be up on the dock to help her too. And she jumped! Right in front of me, and she was holding on before her head had even come back up out of the water. It was just a little thing, and I don’t even know her name. But her dad found me later and thanked me for helping his daughter conquer her fear of the water – apparently that was the only time she jumped in the lake all week. Although I don’t blame her; it’s pretty cold!

If you head to the lake early enough in the morning (before The Plunge, of course), the lake is actually pretty smooth. This is when guests go rowing, and when staph go water skiing. (Yes, the Stanford-educated staphers fail to spell their own title correctly. Also, the people who make our meals work in the Chicken. Don’t ask.) But this is when I get some cool photos of the lake, like this one of the ladder to get back onto the boat dock.

 

TBTW: The Circle by Dave Eggers

I’m instituting a new rule for myself: no social media on weekends. Because I don’t want to turn into Mae from Dave Eggers’ The Circle. I don’t want to lose sight of the difference between the real world and the internet.

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Imagine a company that replaces Google’s search engine, Instagram, Flickr, and Shutterfly for photos, Facebook & Twitter as the social media platform. Imagine an internet where no one is anonymous, so everyone can be held accountable for what they type. How great would it be if there were cameras on the beach so surfers could decide to go surfing or not from the safety and comfort of their bed when they first wake up? Or a system to track the location of children so we can give them freedom but we know they won’t get lost?

But not everything designed with good intentions are limited. A few cameras intended for a certain subset of the population becomes a massive, publicly accessible security system with no filters. Needing to ensure identities online allows accountability, but doesn’t it also limit whistle blowers’ freedom and safety? A system to track children doesn’t necessarily stop at age 18. When voting happens through this massive online system to simplify the process and to obtain higher – nay, 100% – turnout, does that logically mean all eligible voters must have a circle account?

At what point does everyone choosing to opt-in mean no one can choose to opt out? Dave Eggers uses incredible prose – invading and revealing the minds of his character – to force readers to question the next logical step of the social media and online systems we already have in place today.


I can’t very well write a review of a Dave Eggers book without considering the fact that I despised the last book of his I read. As I mentioned here, I am a fan of Eggers. He takes his work to such extremes, builds the characters into such truth, that I can’t help but love them and hate them like real people I meet in real life. If there isn’t greater praise than hating, loving, praying for, or cursing a character as often as I do with Eggers’ work, then I don’t know what else I can say.

The Circle clocks in at 491 pages, but it took me just about 48 hours to read start to finish. t is an important work to read, and an important idea to consider for anyone online (aka you! Since you’re here, reading this…)

SSC ’14 Photoverview

I’ve been conspicuously silent this past week, and it is because I was out and about enjoying nature. What a strange idea, right? Spending a week in the woods, hiking and sailing and crafting and reading and not touching electronics for seven whole days… Okay, not quite. I touched electronics a lot. Namely, I took pictures and then put them on my computer. But the internet was spotty, so with the exception of one snapchat, no photos got distributed while I was at camp. But that is about to change!!

I’ll be sharing lots of stories as I sort through photos in the next few days, as well as at least a couple book reviews for the books I read and discussed while at camp, but here is a short slideshow to tide you over:

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