Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

07/31/2011 § Leave a comment

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

My rating: ★★★★★ (I actually want to give more!)

 

SPOILER ALERT

To be honest, I always had this prejudice that historical fictions are too detail-oriented and difficult to relate to. In fact, I was filled with the same doubt when I first chose to read “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” But once I began reading the first few pages of this novel, I realized that I’ve found an extraordinary book.

Although the story takes place in Afghanistan and revolves around a time period that I’m not familiar with, every little event in the plot seemed like my own personal experience; this is not because I’ve been in the same situations as the main characters are in, but because Hosseini skillfully develops a bond of sympathy. As if I were their friends, I felt the same joy, sorrow, anxiety, and resentment. Because of the wide range of thoughts and emotions–from the naive dreams of childhood to the dry weariness of adulthood–I was able to witness how a girl matures into a mother. I also love the natural shift from Mariam’s life to Laila’s, back and forth. Rather than being confusing, this switch helped me to understand how all the characters are connected in some ways.

The novel addresses many harsh realities of life such as violence, war, poverty, but also  some important and beautiful aspects: love, sacrifice, and romance. I was amazed by the unlimited sacrifices made by Mariam and Laila, for both one another and the children. Their perseverance during the worst possible circumstances was very touching. However, something that captivated me the most was the faithful love between Laila and Tariq. The news of Tariq’s death broke my heart at first, but when the two of them miraculously met again, I actually cried. The couple’s love is portrayed as so pure and genuine that as I was reading, it seemed like I had the responsibility of protecting it from Rasheed’s dirty soul.

Reading this novel was as easy as listening to someone talk; I didn’t have to search for explanations or make guesses. If you are wondering if this is yet another typical writing, go ahead and grab the book right now.

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A Response to “How Games Steer Us Through Life”

07/17/2011 § Leave a comment

Original article: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/02/how-games-steer-us-through-life/

The author seems to recognize that games fail to reflect reality, but she still continues to uphold their value by claiming that they give some kind of comfort and has a deep “social message.” I want to question one of her ideas: mobile games teach a practical lesson to “never give up.” Say that a child continues to play a game even after numerous losses. Is this behavior really a sign of perseverance, not addiction? I also disagree with her view that games like Frisbee Forever help children give confidence and a feeling of “authority”; if a child wins a round of a game, something close to a temporary self-satisfaction would be granted, but there would be nothing significant beyond that. I was surprised that she chose to let her son experience this so-called sense of calmness through games when there are plenty of other methods that can be used (such as listening to music, drawing, and filling up a word puzzle). Sure, “games…give a break…”, but they certainly do not help people to engage in the actual world. The ultimate purpose of games should not be exaggerated or deeply analyzed—games are just games.

Laptops at School

05/25/2011 § Leave a comment

Three years ago, our school started requiring everyone to buy a MacBook, and students as well as teachers have been using it since then. Even our computer labs have huge, white iMacs lined up side by side. Our school’s intention is to utilize modern technology to the fullest in an educational process. But when I take a look around, I don’t think that is what’s actually happening.

Of course, these laptops are beneficial in some ways. For example, teachers don’t have to print out thick copies of worksheets; they can simply upload a PDF file for students to download. Instead of handing in handwritten essays, students use online websites to turn in assignments. People naturally get familiar with different programs and applications, learning to make powerpoint slides and creating their own movies.

Even though convenient, MacBooks at our school cause a major problem: they tempt students to turn off their working mode. As everyone probably knows, everything is possible when you plunge into the world of Internet. People can play games, chat, read comics, shop, take photos, watch movies, get on social networking sites, and much more. Teachers always tell students at our school, “Don’t turn on iChat! Use your class time wisely.” Our school even has a desktop monitoring program which lets teachers to look at the students monitors. Theoretically, those who are doing “other stuff” are supposed to get caught through this system. However, this rarely happens.

I find it a bit ironical that our school expects students to stay on task with such a distracting tool right next to them all the time. In an ideal situation, they would turn off Facebook, open a pages document, and work vigorously. But is this really possible for every single person? Teachers always address issues of students not doing what they’re told to do, but I think students shouldn’t be blamed. Even without a computer, it’s common for students to have difficulties concentrating in class. In my opinion, it is rather the whole system of having MacBooks that is unproductive. I’m not saying that students are totally innocent here; they should try to restrain themselves, too. What my point is that telling them not to wander off is not the best solution to this problem.

photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mizanen/2097494574/

The beauty of Handwritten Letters

05/22/2011 § Leave a comment

When is the last time you wrote a letter with a paper and a pencil? For me, it was just a week ago. This might seem outdated and queer to some of you out there. In my opinion, the words in a text message or an email can never replace those carefully drafted with your own hands. Unlike other methods that can communicate your thoughts, handwritten letters can be seized, felt, and carefully kept in your drawers.

The reason why I like handwritten letters is because each of them is unique. Some letters are written on notepads, some on pretty cards, some on a loose leaf paper. Every person writes in a different style with a different handwriting, which is what makes these letters very special. Instead of having a pre-designed format for you to use, handwritten work is an originally created form of art. You can draw little pictures on the margins, use all sorts of writing utensils, paste a photo that you’d like to share, put silly stickers for decoration, or even leave a kiss mark. (:

At home, I have two full boxes of letters, birthday cards, and other small notes that I’ve kept since I was a kid. My mom constantly insisted me to throw them away, but I always refused to. For me, these are gifts that I want to savor even when I become an adult. When I look at those messages years from now, they would tell me what kind of people I knew in the past, what we were worried about back then, and most importantly, how much I have grown. Texts and electronic mails get deleted all the time, but handwritten letters don’t.

The next time you fall in love, try writing a letter to your lover with your own hands. The words expressed in this simple way of communication can actually be more touching and sincere than those conveyed through any mechanical devices.

Book Revieiw: Room by Emma Donoghue

05/16/2011 § Leave a comment

*spoiler included*

“We have thousands of things to do every morning, like give Plant a cup of water in Sink for no spilling, then put her back on her saucer on Dresser.”

This is what Jack, an innocent five-year old boy, says in the beginning of the novel Room by Emma Donoghue. In this novel, the author has done an amazing job on portraying a view of a young, gullible, naive kid and how the world looks in a child’s perspective.

Plot: Jack and his mother are living in an eleven-by-eleven-foot space they call “Room”. To Jack, who has been living here for all his life, Room is a perfect home. His mother has made everything to be possible in this limited space: exercising, playing instruments, reading, playing games, et cetera. The only thing that scares Jack is a guy nicknamed Old Nick who visits the room at night; when he’s visiting, Jack has to hide himself in the wardrobe. As his mother gets more weary about her life in this so-called house, she reveals her secret: she was kidnapped by Old Nick when she was 19. Only after she describes the entire story a couple of times does Jack realize that they are locked up. The mother comes up with a somewhat risky scheme, which is to make Jack pretend to be extremely ill and ask Old Nick to bring him to the hospital. With a lot of practice, the little child carries out this plan successfully and contacts someone outside of Room for help. Eventually, both of them are saved by the police and Old Nick gets imprisoned. However, the two of them face many difficulties even after they are freed. While Jack is foreign to everything, his mother needs much time to get accustomed to her new lifestyle. Although both of them have a lot to learn in a short amount of time, they help each other to face the real world.

My Opinion: The reason why I like this novel is that the characters are simply adorable; it is almost impossible to dislike a naive child and his mother who shows the perfect example of sacrifice. One might say the idea of kidnapping someone in a confined space is too horrifying, but I think the love portrayed in this son-and-mother relationship is the bigger element here. The plot itself holds an optimistic view towards the world: even if you think you’re hopeless, never give up. As I was reading, I was surprised by the characters’ persistence and faith in each other. Also, the way Old Nick unexpectedly visits the room builds up suspense and it made me wonder how the story would proceed. Every page is full of details that make the story seem realistic. For instance, the description of the specific features of the room helped me visualize what the characters are going through. By reading this novel, I learned a bit more about how kids and adults accept things in different ways.

picture source: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/09/19/books/review/Cover.html

How to Build Relationships

05/03/2011 § 1 Comment

Although I haven’t met a lot of people in my life yet, I already realize how difficult it is to keep up relationships (not just with a boyfriend/girlfriend, but also with people of the same gender). Back when I was even younger, connecting with others wasn’t a problem for me. I stayed close with those who I liked, which was simple. Recently, however, I sense that it takes much more effort to sustain relationships, especially with those who aren’t nearby all the time. I have a couple of friends who are studying abroad, and in order to keep in touch with each other, we frequently have to send messages via Facebook, chat on ichat, et cetera. Talking face to face with the people I see everyday is something that happens naturally. On the other hand, time difference makes having conversations with someone overseas more complicated. Yet, I have to say, this is just a minor hitch in building relationships.

Being in a relationship–whether it takes place at home, work, or school–requires an act of commitment. You’ve probably heard this a few hundred times, but it’s absolutely true. If any one side fails to stay devoted or neglects the other side, everything breaks apart. So how do we maintain relationships?

1. Approach first

Back in the past, I wanted to get close with someone but didn’t know how to do so. To my surprise, she came up to me first and I was touched by her courage. Sometimes, there are moments when you get distant from others without knowing what went wrong (or when you are in a cold war with your boyfriend). If this is the case, you should be brave and talk to him/her first. It might seem unfair, but think of it as a friendly surrender; if you are willing to step up, the other side will certainly feel grateful and relieved.

2. Listen

I often want someone to listen to my complaints, worries, fears without getting questioned or interrupted. Listening to someone ramble on might seem easy, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people tend to cut in with their own stories or start spacing out after a while. Even if you are not interested at all, you should at least try pretending.

3. A bit of privacy needed

Sometimes, you might urge your friends to reveal their little secrets. This may seem normal in a close relationship, but don’t forget to respect others’ privacy, even if they are your family members. Asking too many questions can be pressuring to a lot of people. Also, trying to figure out every single detail of somebody else’s life isn’t a wise way to keep up relationships.

4. Not too dependent

Having somebody beside to support you is surely encouraging and reassuring. If you need advice, an open ear, or a serious talk, it’s okay to rely on others once in a while. However, you should always remember that you’re not the only one who feels stressed out. Let the other side take a rest. Learn to be independent so that you don’t have to bother somebody else too often.

5. Understand

Nobody is perfect. There are times when you just want to punch someone in the face or feel as if he/she is the most annoying person in the world. This is when you have to remind yourself that you, too, have flaws. Once you start finding everyone’s weaknesses, you’d have nobody to like. Don’t try to fix what you dislike about others, but instead, just accept them for who they are.

Photo source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ydvCT_shVfk/TVxl1nypFfI/AAAAAAAAABk/UUdc89S8034/s1600/holding_hands_by_homarte.jpg

Calorie Count

04/21/2011 § Leave a comment

Apple: 65

Banana: 200

Tangerine: 103

Mango: 107

Peach: 66

Taco Bell – soft chicken taco: 190

Plain hot dog: 242

McDonald’s – cheeseburger: 300Big Mac: 540

Chipotle – crispy tacos (4): 240

Subway – turkey breast wrap: 190

Auntie Anne’s – original pretzel: 370

Wendy’s – big bacon classic: 590


Coca – cola classics: 97

Lipton – original iced tea (sweetened): 60

Minute Maid – original: 110

Starbucks – caffe latte: 126

Swiss Miss – hot chocolate mix: 59
AriZona Greentea: 70

Red Bull: 10

Snapple – kiwi strawberry: 110