Notes on Life  

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* When talking about music, people often mention sound quality. It is an important piece of information when you are looking to buy headphones or speakers. As I was listening to some vinyl records recently, it just came to my mind that crystal clear sound quality is so overrated. Those records have a certain magic that just cannot be replaced by modern technology.

* During finals, I somehow got into a conversation with a girl that I had not really spoken to in years. We were never what you would call 'friends,' but at the same time, there were no negative feelings between us. We were just classmates who would probably say, "Hi, how are you?" if we met each other on the street, and the conversation would stop at that. I never really got to know this girl, but I did know that her closest friends in junior high school were very immature, rude, tactless, and self-centered. That image kind of stayed with me even as we all grew up and became high school students. But as we talked a few weeks ago, I realized my mistake in grouping her together with her friends. From our short talk, I understood that she was actually quite mature (for an eleventh grader, at any rate), and we had some common goals in life. I doubt we will ever become close friends, but I am glad to see I was mistaken about her personality. One of the things I realized after that incident was that many people do judge you based on your friends. The people you spend time with do, in a certain way, reflect on you.

* Most people have had, at some point or another, that nightmare in which you try to escape and you tell yourself to run, but you are paralyzed. Something holds you in place (perhaps it is even your fear). You find that it is impossible to flee, because your feet refuse to cooperate. You feel helpless, rooted to the spot like that as you sense some danger steadily advancing on you. Sometimes you have that same feeling in real life. You can physically run, but mentally and emotionally you cannot escape.

Are any of these things something others experienced too? Feel free to share and discuss.


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We share this world with countless other people, from all different walks of life. There are some to whom we feel a certain connection, perhaps because we share a nationality or a religion. Others remain strangers to us because we find nothing in common with them as we chance a glimpse of them when we venture out of our own homes. Whether we can relate to them or not, it is always fascinating to observe people. As a writer, it is one of my chief delights to sit on a train or in a Starbucks with big glass windows, watching those unsuspecting people as they walk past me, wrapped up in their own lives. Each one of them has a goal, a purpose, something they hope to achieve. As I see them hurrying by, I wonder where they are headed, and what is it that makes them rush. I wonder what meaning their lives have, if any at all.

Recently, as I was riding home late one night, I saw an Orthodox couple walking together, the only people visible in that quiet neighborhood. A few minutes later, as we turned onto a busy street, I saw a group of four teenage guys standing in a circle outside a store. Three of them were just looking down at the ground, while the fourth was smoking a cigarette. All four looked bored and unhappy, and somehow... empty. They were just standing around there at night, with nothing better to do, and that somehow made me sad for them, especially as I contrasted them with the couple I observed before.

I know people who try to fill the emptiness of their lives with more emptiness, and that is so sad. Why fill an empty space with more of the same? Why not put some meaning into life? There is so much we can do.... We can learn Torah, give some of our time to those who can use our help, do something that we can look back on without regret.

Today, there was a siyum in our shul, which reminded me of how fortunate I am to be a Jew. People do not always focus on the words said after the completion of a mesechta, or their meaning, but I noticed it because it is something one of my teachers mentioned in class that really had an impact on me.

We thank G-d for placing us among those who sit in the Beit Medrash and not on the streets, and we compare and contrast our lives as Jews to the lives of others. All people rise early, but we do it for the sake of Torah, while they do it for what is ultimately nothingness. We all toil, but we are rewarded for it at the end of our lives, while they are not. And we run, and they run, but we run toward eternal life, while they run toward destruction.

G-d gave us a life that has the potential to be full of meaning. Our lives are supposed to have meaning. How can we exchange it for the emptiness of the outside world? That is what makes me so sad when I observe or think of such people, some of whom are my acquaintance. But then, I observe people whose lives are full of purpose, significance, and awareness, and that inspires me.

May we all live meaningful lives and merit eternal life and the coming of משיח.

ISH's Misadventures  

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I woke up today at the very early hour of 5:30 AM after having gone to sleep past 2 AM. My alarm clock was set for 10:45 AM, but there I was, fully awake, more than five hours earlier, in a great deal of pain. My back was hurting unbearably and the slightest wrong movement caused even more pain. The sun was rising, the birds were chirping (and cawing), my back was hurting, and there was no way I would fall back asleep. So after suffering for nearly half an hour, I thought I might as well get up and start my day.

The entire house was completely silent, and only sounds I heard came from the birds outside my window. Everything was so peaceful and serene; I felt as if I were living in another century. I realized what a perfectly opportunity it was to write, so I headed upstairs to the attic, where I have a little spot with a desk, a wooden box, some antique-looking notebooks, quills, and bottled ink. There is a small window there facing the east, so the lighting was perfect at that hour, and I did not need any artificial lighting.

I flipped to an empty page in one of the notebooks, opened my ink bottle, dipped in the quill, and started to write. I love the sound and the feel of a quill scratching against paper, leaving black lettering. Soon enough, my hands were indeed stained with ink. There is something about having ink on my hands that makes me feel more connected to the writing; it is as if I am a part of it.

Once I was done, I closed my notebooks and put the cap back on the ink and returned to my room. It was nearly 6:30 AM, and I was quite tired, so I actually managed to fall back asleep. When I woke up later that morning and looked in a mirror, I realized I must have rubbed my face either in my sleep or while I was writing, because I no longer just had ink stained hands -- I had an ink stained face.

End-of-Year Post  

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Since I got my report card today and passed all my subjects, it is finally official that I am done with eleventh grade. (To be honest, I did not just pass my subjects, I passed them with flying colors. I had only two marks under 90, and my overall average was above a 90, so I am quite satisfied.)

After the frenzy of finals and other exams, I finally have a chance to think more about the past year and what I have learned from it. I also want to comment on some things I have observed in the past few weeks, but that will be in my next post.

Yesterday, I decided to clean out my knapsack and folders and organize my papers from school. It was then that it forcefully struck me: Eleventh grade is over. I won't be able to attend all those classes that I loved anymore. I used to look forward to some classes so much, and now it's over. I wondered why it only came to my mind then, and what I realized is that finals are actually merciful. They help you make that transition from school to vacation. Finals took up so much of my time and energy that I did not even have the opportunity to think about how sad it was to be leaving eleventh grade. All I could think about were my exams, which prevented me from thinking about much else. But now that I have all the free time I could want in order to think, I really miss school. Of course, I do not miss the tests or the countless assignments, but I miss learning. I purchased a few translated seforim in the past few months, so I suppose I will learn those.

The important thing is what I gained this year from school. Not only have I gained more knowledge, but I have gained a deeper appreciation of life and Judaism. I learned how to be a better person, and I learned how to look at life from a different angle in order to make the most of it.

People sometimes ask me whether I feel as though I am a different person now than I was a year ago. When one of my teachers asked that question at the beginning of eleventh grade, I answered that I don't feel any different. Now, however, I can answer with full certainty that I am not the same as I was last year or even at the beginning of this year.

It feels wonderful.

Passage of Time  

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There are some things, some situations, that serve as a powerful reminder of how quickly time passes by, and one of those things is graduation.

My best friend graduated today (well, technically it was yesterday, since it is past midnight now), and I was there to see it and celebrate with her. I clearly remembered her elementary school graduation, to which I also came, and then I remembered my own graduation. I remember how young we were, and yet how cool we thought we were for walking down that aisle in our blue gowns, ready to receive our diplomas. We thought that it was the end, that we had completed all there was to complete. I remember how my class became all sentimental about saying goodbye, even though we all knew that most of us would be together in high school anyway.

There was another thought that very much affected me. When I was in the younger grades of the elementary school (first, second, third), I used to see high school students in the lunchroom and I thought about how many years I had left until I could be in their place. To a second grader, the image of being in twelfth grade is too vague to properly contemplate. Twelfth grade was something so far away, so out of reach. It seemed as though it would never come, because I knew I still had so many grades left to go through. I often wondered about it though, counting down the years. And now I realized -- it all went by so quickly, and here I am, entering the twelfth grade, and there is my best friend, already done.

I remember when she and I first met. I was in sixth grade, and she was in seventh. We were shy at first, but once we got over that initial stage, we became good friends... and then we became best friends. We have come so far since that day when we first met. I still remember it, as crystal clear as if I see it on an HD screen.

Well, now she has graduated, and next year I will not have her with me in school. I will not be able to just find her during my lunch break or free periods, whenever I want to talk. It might take some adjusting.

Time is flying by, and I want to make the most of every day before I graduate. I used to count down the years until graduation because I could not wait to be done with school, but now, when I count the time I have left here, I am sorry that it is so little. I always wanted the clock to speed up, but now that it has, I wish it would slow down. When I saw those graduates on that stage today (some of whom I knew from my AP Literature class) and I imagined myself there in a year, it made me kind of sad. I always dreamed of being there, but realizing now how little time I have left, I regret having to leave so soon.

I am tired now, having been up for nearly seventeen hours after sleeping for a grand total of five. I have had a busy day, and although my thoughts are racing, I do not want that to translate into me rambling here.


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It is not unusual to pass by a group of Russian people talking in obnoxiously loud tones on the street. Neither is it uncommon to overhear a few Russians heatedly arguing in the middle of a store.

What makes it interesting for me is that I actually understand what they are saying, so I sometimes amuse myself by listening to their loud conversations.

One of the things that has been made apparent is that Russians have no problem analyzing and discussing you thoroughly while under the notion that you do not understand a word they are saying. It seems that many Russians simply assume they are the only ones speaking the language, so they have free license to say whatever they please about whomever they please.

I remember I once went with my mother to a doctor's office. My mother went into the office, while I sat in the waiting room and occupied myself with my writing and my iPod. There were two older Russian women sitting near me, also waiting. I began writing a story, but my thoughts were interrupted when I heard one of the women muttering under her breath to the other in Russian, "Look at how long her skirt is. Why does she wear such long skirts?" I might have lifted my eyebrows at that comment, but I did not allow myself to look up or give any other sign that I had understood. That was a good thing, or I would have been denied the amusement of listening to them discussing my outfit, my looks, and what I was doing. ("What is that in her hand?" "Oh, it's something that plays music.") It took a great deal of self-discipline not to burst out laughing at how ridiculous the situation was. There I was, a Russian-speaking young girl, wearing a long skirt, trying to write and listen to music, and minding my own business, and there were the two Russian ladies, their heads bent together, their eyes staring directly at me, their conversation revolving around me. The best part of the story is that when my mother returned and came over to me, I loudly asked her in Russian whether she's ready to go. Oh, you should have seen those women's faces. And then... one of them loudly whispered in shock to the other in Russian, "She understands everything!" Once my mother and I left the office, I allowed myself a good laugh.

A similar thing happened as I was walking outside one Shabbat. Two Russian women discussed my appearance, and it never occurred to them that I might understand Russian.

I was walking around Brooklyn yesterday with my friend, and we were talking about this interesting Russian habit. Apparently, she has had similar experiences. We went into a shoe store together, and as we were looking at shoes, I heard one of the young Russian employees remarking to the other that I have pretty hair. First of all, I kind of felt like laughing because my friend and I had just discussed how Russians talk about you freely, and here we were experiencing it again. So I turned around and thanked the girl in Russian. Her expression was priceless. She was shocked into silence for a moment, and her eyes became larger as she stared at me. Then came the questions... They asked us how we know Russian, where we're from, and so on. We talked a little bit, and I told them that my friend and I had just discussed how Russians often don't realize that we understand them. Once they got over the initial surprise, they were also amused.

Some of my friends and I also used to talk to each other in Russian when we were in school or in other public places, so others should not understand. I remember that when I was in sixth grade, I used to write stories or journal entries during class. Once I realized that there was the danger of a teacher taking away my writing and reading it, I decided that I would play it safe by writing in Russian. And what do you know? As I was sitting in the back corner of the classroom, calmly writing in Russian about my life and how boring the class was, my teacher walked up, stood behind me, and said, "I know Russian."

Lesson learnt: Never assume that your conversation is private just because you are speaking or writing in a language other than English. Do not be so confident that others cannot understand you.

I wonder, is it mostly a Russian thing or do my multilingual readers experience the same thing with people of other nationalities?

Israel is Confirmed  

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Well, it's official! I am going to Israel in August!

I was only in Israel once, when I was four years old, and let us just say that that was not a particularly pleasant experience. Four-year-olds and twelve-hour plane trips don't go well together.

So my parents and I have wanted to go to Israel for a while now, and now we are finally planning the trip! My parents just ordered tickets for August. We are leaving New York on August 3rd and returning on August 19th.

Before, this idea of going to Israel sounded so vague to me. I mean, I knew we were planning on going, but it somehow did not seem so real to me. It was just something in the future, something I would eventually experience. Now, however, it is a reality because we already ordered the tickets. Hearing my father ordering meals on the plane for us and confirming seats made it sink in -- we're really going to Israel!

So now I can spend the remaining weeks preparing for our trip. I believe this calls for some shopping.

And now, I feel I must express my excitement in a rather unladylike way.... SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall  

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Have you ever had one of those days when you just cannot stop thinking about a certain novel? It seems to follow you wherever you go, and it is in your mind no matter what it is you are doing at the time.

That is what is happening to me today with Anne Bronte's novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. When I first read it, I could not get it out of my head either. But now, I don't see why it should be occupying my thoughts so much. I recently mentioned the BBC series in my post on period pieces, and yesterday I decided to watch it again.

Perhaps that is why the novel found its way into the essay I had to write for the Touro English placement exam today. One of the choices for the essay was "Knowledge is power" vs. "Ignorance is bliss." What a wonderful topic, I thought, and I decided to do it. I claimed that knowledge is, indeed, power, while ignorance often leads to misery. As one of the proofs, I mentioned The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and how Helen's ignorance led to misery and pain. Had she known her husband's true nature and the hopelessness of changing or reforming him, she would not have married him. At the time that she accepted his proposal, she was unaware of the extent of his debauchery. Ignorance is bliss? I don't think so. That ignorance caused her to get stuck with an abusive and unfaithful husband.

I remembered bookmarking some pages in my copy of the book to which I wanted to go back, so I just took it off the shelf again and thought I might as well post my thoughts and some quotes I liked.

Helen, the main character of the book, once said, "I hate talking where there is no exchange of ideas or sentiments, and no good given or received." I too prefer real, thorough conversations to small talk, but when everybody around you is so attached to small talk, it is difficult to avoid it. Whenever there is a silence, people feel the need to fill it instead of simply enjoying the moment. Why must something always be said, though? If there is nothing worth saying, would it not be better to remain silent?

Another thing I appreciated was the following exchange between Helen and Mr. Markham as they observed the beauty of nature:
Helen: "I almost wish I were not a painter."
Mr. Markham: "Why so? One would think at such a time you would most exult in your privilege of being able to imitate the various brilliant and delightful touches of nature."
Helen: "No; for instead of delivering myself up to the full enjoyment of them as others do, I am always troubling my head about how I could produce the same effect upon canvas; and as that can never be done, it is mere vanity and vexation of spirit."

I often feel this way in regard to my writing. Although I love to write and it is something I do on a constant basis, there are moments when I feel as if I cannot fully experience something because I am busy thinking of how I can get it into writing. Even though I appreciate having what to write about, it is sometimes a bit overwhelming because I feel I cannot go onto the next experience until I have done justice to the previous one.

Here is another quote from Helen that adequately describes what my feelings are toward writing: "This paper will serve instead of a confidential friend into whose ear I might pour forth the overflowings of my heart." I tend to do that a lot; I avoid confiding many of my thoughts, and my idea of sharing them is to write them down in a notebook. Although I am sitting here now and typing up my present thoughts for my blog, it is nothing compared to what I keep between me and my notebooks.

It is wonderful how often books mirror your own thoughts and how accurately they do so. I found it to be especially true with this book, which is, I suppose, why I wanted to dedicate a post to it.

Blog News  

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I just changed the header of my blog from plain text to something I like a good deal more. Tell me what you think!

I think this might have been the shortest post I ever made. But that might be because I have another one on the way.

Quality vs. Quantity in Teaching  

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I have already mentioned in a couple of posts the letters girls wrote for an opinion magazine that our school organized. I discussed their letters on whether or not copying homework is ethical, but I have not yet posted anything about our other topic: quality vs. quantity in teaching. So here it is.

The question was whether teachers should stop to answer girls' hashkafic questions in class or just go on with the curriculum. Is quality or quantity more important in teaching? My position was the teacher should teach what she prepared, and if girls have question, they should ask them after class. I wrote a very long letter on the subject, but I had to shorten it for the magazine. So here is the shortened version:

"I have often heard students angrily complaining that teachers are only concerned with finishing the curriculum and could not be bothered about other relevant issues.

Students, let me ask you –– are your questions truly that important to you? Is there really an issue you need help with or on which you would like some insight? Or is your goal to disrupt the class so as not to have to learn?

If you have a long question that will disrupt the class and prevent the teacher from completing the planned lesson, please refrain from asking it in class. Although it is important to you, it might not apply to all of your classmates, whereas the teacher’s lesson applies to everyone and will be on everyone’s test.

I do encourage girls to seek a teacher’s advice when they need it, but I suggest that you do so after class. Most teachers are very obliging and generous with their time and will not mind spending lunchtime or free periods talking with you. If you really want to discuss an issue, you will not mind using your free time for it. There are those who are eager to ask their questions in class, but when they are told to wait, they mutter, “whatever,” and decide the answer is not worth the effort or time. Such an attitude suggests that the question was not that important to begin with.

If you believe an issue is important and widespread enough that it needs to be discussed in class, tell the teacher so after class.

Also, have some respect for your classmates. While you may think the issue you are dealing with is more important than the lesson, other girls might not be of the same opinion.

So no, teachers should not stop to answer girls’ hashkafic questions. I believe that “quality” is learning what you are taught and then seeking further clarification outside class. In addition, the best response you can receive is in private, when a teacher can answer your questions more fully than she would in a public setting. Both quality and quantity are important, so seek both."

So that was my letter. Here are some quotes from other letters and my replies to them:

One anonymous girl wrote, "Very often, a teacher prepares a lesson that she feels poses an issue or problem that's applicable to her students, but in reality, few people are able to relate to it." Oh, really? Just because you feel you cannot relate to it does not mean that others cannot. I appreciate the lessons a teacher gives over, and I can relate to many of them. Who are you to judge what people can relate to and what they can't? Even if only ten out of twenty five girls can relate to a certain lesson, that already makes it worth the time. If a teacher is teaching a certain lesson, there is a reason behind it. You can't just pick and choose what you want to be taught based on your personal thoughts and issues. If you want a personalized education, where YOUR issues are addressed, I suggest you drop out of school and go learn on your own. Actually, scratch that. I do not encourage anybody dropping out of school. I merely mean to say that if you have things you want to know, you should seek out the answers by yourself. You can even ask the teachers, but do not assume that because you feel something is important it is necessary to dedicate a class to it.

This same girl also wrote that "Hebrew teachers don't have to rush like nuts, for, after all, there are no regents at the end of the year for which all the material must be covered!" Ah, so Regents are more important than Judaism now? I think it is just as important to be taught more about your religion as it is to cover the Regents curriculum. Learning should not just be about the tests. Why can't people learn for the sake of learning? Does one have to be tested on a subject in order to feel that it is worth learning?

The girl goes on to write, "School is meant to be a learning experience, and if the students' issues aren't being addressed, then the purpose of school is not being accomplished." First of all, the purpose of school is not to answer all your questions. The school never claimed that it was going to give you all the answers you sought. Second of all, who said the students' issues cannot be addressed? All I am saying is that students should not interrupt a teacher's lesson in order to ask their questions. If these students have issues, why can't they go over to the teacher after class and ask? Is it really so hard to ask a teacher between classes or during lunch as opposed to during class? I think these girls are more interested in interrupting the class than they are in receiving answers to their questions, because if their questions were really so important, they would not make such a big deal out of asking outside of class.

Another girl brilliantly wrote, "If you want to get out of learning, just stay home and stop wasting everyone's time." Finally -- someone with common sense! Here is another one of her statements that I applaud: "Honestly, if your question is that important, and so applicable, to nearly everyone, it'll probably be discussed without any interventiopn by you. And if it really isn't, just bring it up by sicha, or even by Shabbaton's 'Shmooze Your Views.' Isn't that what they were designed for?"

Another reasonable girl wrote, "Teachers worked hard preparing for us -- we should listen." Finally -- a teenager that does not think that the world revolves around her. What a wonderful discovery! She makes a very valid point here. Do girls have any idea how much time and effort goes into every single lesson? These teachers work so hard to prepare the lessons for us, so how can students be so careless about it? I think I started to fully appreciate their effort once I started doing Honors Parsha. Honors Parsha means you prepare three parshiyot a year, with Rashi and miforshim, and teach them to a class. It took me hours just to prepare one lesson. Can you imagine what it takes for a teacher to prepare a whole school year's worth of lessons? Have some respect.

Here is a quote from another letter: "If a student is asking a question, there is a reason why. It might be a cry for help, curiosity, or something the student is confused about. Either way, the teacher should answer the question." Breathe in, breathe out, answer calmly. Okay, here we go. Of course there is a reason why a student is asking a question! But sometimes, the reason is that the girl does not want to learn and is trying to waste everyone's time! And if a question is a cry for help, please explain to me why a girl would want to ask it in public then?! If you're going through something very difficult, why would you want to announce it to a full class of teenagers? I just don't understand it. Go over to a teacher after class, ask your question, clear up your doubts, get some help. Why is it necessary to ask it in the middle of class? Does your issue have to be a soap opera or a drama that the whole class is watching? (That would actually explain the munching sounds I hear of girls chewing popcorn during class.)

This girl claims that asking a teacher after class is not the best solution because "there may be other students in the class who have the same question, but are just too embarrassed to ask." If a student thinks that other girls have the same question, it is possible to tell the teacher so after class, so the teacher can decide whether or not she would like to address the issue with the whole class. Maybe then the teacher can even prepare a better answer than she would have been able to give if asked on the spot in the middle of class.

This girl claims that another reason why a student might ask a question is "that the class is boring and the students can't handle it anymore. They need a way out of the subject, and if that's the case, I think it's time for the teacher to change the way she teaches." Oh no, more teenage selfishness, thinking the world revolves around them. Spare me. If you need a way out, just cut class and deal with the consequences. The teacher does not have to change her curriculum because of those few inevitable girls who think it is boring.

Another anonymous writer gave the extreme example of a girl who is struggling with her emunah. "A teacher may refuse to give class time to discuss such a topic -- she figures it is just an excuse to waste time -- and then the student would never receive the necessary and proper answers. Without these answers, her situation may worsen, chas v'shalom." What a tragedy. This girl is incapable of asking a question after class and will destroy her life because of her stubbornness. For some reason, I feel no pity for her. If she is struggling with something and needs help or support, she should seek it outside of class. Why do girls have this attitude and assume that their questions cannot be answered unless it is in the middle of the teacher's lesson? If a girl doesn't value the answer enough to ask for it after class, that is her problem. I will even go so far as to call it stupidity.

Something happened a few weeks ago that illustrates this point perfectly. One girl had a halachic question and wanted to ask it during class, even though she knew perfectly well that the teacher's policy was not to stop for questions in the middle of the lesson. When she saw that he was not stopping because of her raised hand, she quit and said, "I'll just get the halacha wrong -- it's his fault." I told her that that is a stupid way to look at it, and she should just ask him after class since her question is important. She replied, "I'm not asking after class. It's my free time." So this is the attitude teenage girls have apparently. Their time is so precious to them that they would rather get a halacha wrong than spend a minute of their time asking for the right answer.

If something really is that important to a girl, she would not mind asking after class.

Bottom line: Stop wasting class time! Sit, listen, absorb the lesson. Maybe you'll actually get something out of it if you don't spend the entire forty minutes thinking, "What question can I ask that will interrupt the lesson well enough? What would the teacher think is valid enough to stop a lesson for?"

Seriously, grow up.

Pigeons and Shidduchim  

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I recently noticed a gray male pigeon strutting around in front of a female, trying his best to impress her while she pointedly ignored him. His neck was puffed up to three times its normal size, and he spread his tail feathers out like a fan. Apparently indignant at her indifference, he continued to persistently follow her while she walked away. He walked with his head in the air and his feathers all puffed up in an attempt to look important and impressive, but when he saw that it had no effect on the female pigeon, his feathers deflated and he went back to being a regular city pigeon -- just another pigeon, one of millions roaming around the city.

Does anyone else see any parallel here to our shidduchim system?

First impressions are important, but must we overdo it by putting on a show like the pigeons on the streets?

Post-Final Ramblings  

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I took my last final of the eleventh grade today, and I feel so relieved that it is over. I still have a math test (not a final), a Touro English Placement exam, and the Math B Regent (in that order), but for today and Shabbat I can just relax.

I have been getting, on average, five hours of sleep a night since finals started. One night, I got as little as three and a half hours. Surprisingly, I have not had any coffee (besides for, well, some small interesting drink with coffee in it). I used to drink at least a cup of coffee every single day before going to school, just to keep myself awake, and I basically functioned on that. But I wanted to be less dependant on it, so I slowly started the switch to green tea, and that is what I have been drinking these past few months. Despite all the sleep deprivation, I was completely awake every day and was able to focus on studying and on taking the finals. Today, however, it has all finally caught up to me: I am exhausted. I could barely keep my eyes from closing during today's final, and the only reason I am sitting here and typing this post as opposed to going to sleep is that I do not usually fall asleep during the daytime unless I am sick. If my mother ever sees me sleeping during the day, she gets worried and feels my forehead. That's how it is.

There are a few good outcomes from all this studying though.
A) I knew the material and hopefully did well on the tests.
B) Some of the finals were actually very interesting to study for, and I enjoyed it.
C) When studying takes up most of your time, eating gets less time, so I lost a little bit of weight. Boredom, on the other hand, leads to scavenging for food.
D) When I did eat, it was mostly healthy. I did not have much time to find stuff for myself, so my mother kindly gave me food while I was studying. Since it is my mom we're talking about, the food was all healthy. I think I ate more fruits this week than I have in the past few months.
E) I can now appreciate the summer and the opportunities for relaxation more.

On a completely different note -- I have a little box with quotes of the day on my Google homepage, and I found this little gem today:

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -- Plato.


Posted by inkstainedhands in

After finishing my final half an hour earlier than planned, I am giving myself those thirty minutes to write, as a reward for a job well done.

I have nothing significant to say except that my finals are going well, and with the exception of my sleep deprivation, I am doing very well too.

As I walked out of the school building after today's final, I reflected on how quickly time seems to fly. A mere hour and a half earlier, I had been walking to school and nervously reviewing my notes as I walked, my hands shaking and my mind screaming, "No! I don't want to take this final!" I was definitely not looking forward to it.

And now, as I was walking back home after completing the final, I could not believe that I was so nervous only ninety minutes ago. The change was such a pleasant relief.

The final turned out somewhat easier than I expected it to be, and I had that amazing feeling of knowing that I had answered each question without hesitation. It is such an unbelievable feeling to know that you have completed an exam and knew every single thing so well.

And now, I am off to study for the two finals I have tomorrow morning.

Period Pieces for the Summer  

Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

Netflix has taken to suggesting movies for me on my homepage based on my previous ratings or interests. Sometimes, they make the most inane assumptions about me and my preferences. For example, because I watched The Duchess, Netflix labeled me as someone who likes "heartfelt movies featuring a strong female lead," when in reality, I just wanted to see Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes in it. On the other hand, some of their assumptions are correct. For example, they correctly guessed that I enjoy "witty British movies based on classic literature" because of my interest in Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair.

But you can never completely trust Netflix to tell you what you'll enjoy. In fact, you can't trust anyone, because it depends on you and your personal preferences. I, for example, most enjoy pre-20th century period pieces, preferably based on classic literature.

As summer approaches, many of us find ourselves with a lot of time on our hands. While I am not suggesting that my readers should spend their summer watching films, I will suggest a few films from among those I recently enjoyed in case my readers do find themselves looking for something good to watch. In this post, I will focus on ten period pieces that I liked (mostly based on books), in no particular order.

  1. Wuthering Heights -- I have watched a few versions of this film (including one in French), but my favorites were the ones from 1939, 1970, 1992. The 1939 version stars Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, both of whom play their parts very convincingly. One of the things I liked about this version that I did not see in other versions was the emphasis on Heathcliff and Isabella's relationship. I somehow found myself sympathizing with Isabella more because this film gave the viewers a bigger view into her life. The 1970 version, starring Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall, was also very beautifully done. (Interesting fact: Anna Calder-Marshall and Laurence Olivier later played together in King Lear, after having acted in different versions of Wuthering Heights.) The 1992 version of Wuthering Heights was the first one I ever saw. While Juliette Binoche's interpretation of Cathy was slightly annoying, Ralph Fiennes was perfect for the role of the tormented Heathcliff.
  2. Gone With the Wind. Need I really say more?
  3. North and South -- This is a BBC series containing four episodes, about a young woman in England who moves from a rural town to an industrial town and has to adapt to her new surroundings and the coldness displayed by the Northerners. This series is easy on the eyes, relaxing, and leaves you with a smile on your face. There are some sad parts, but the ending makes it all worth it.
  4. Pride and Prejudice. I have watched four different versions so far, but my favorite remains the 2005 version, with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Although it is nowhere near as long or as faithful to the book as the BBC version, it has a certain dream-like quality to it and the lighting techniques give it this feeling of tranquillity and sunshine that make it totally worth it. The costumes were delightful as well. Another thing I loved about this film was the soundtrack. I often listen to it as I am doing my homework, writing, or relaxing. I probably would not want to admit how many times I saw this film or how many times I listened to the soundtrack on repeat, but you get the idea. (The 1940 version of Wuthering Heights starring Laurence Olivier is also worth a mention, although I was disappointed by the costumes. The women's fashion was off by a couple of decades and they were wearing wide skirts over big petticoats. Pride and Prejudice is a Regency novel, so they should have been wearing the empire gowns typical of that period.)
  5. Sense and Sensibility. Yes, another film based on a Jane Austen book. I can't help it -- she was really good at what she did! My favorite version of this movie is from 1995, starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman.
  6. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. This BBC series is based on a book by Anne Bronte, the least famous of the three Bronte sisters, but just as talented. Unlike Jane Austen's works, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a typical Bronte novel -- dark and dramatic. It is about a young woman who marries a reprobate with a penchant for drinking and tries to escape and rebuild her life once she realizes that there is no changing him.
  7. Jane Eyre. Another Bronte novel, this time by Charlotte. There are a few versions out, but I could not find one that struck me as being superior to the rest, so I will pick and choose. If I could, I would combine Timothy Dalton's interpretation of Mr. Rochester (from the 1983 BBC series) with Samantha Morton's Jane (from the 1997 version). I do recommend both though.
  8. Little Women (1994). This is one of the films that I remember watching when I was a little girl and would gladly watch over and over again now. Jo is one of my favorite characters, as I can relate to her so well.
  9. The Importance of Being Earnest. This is a very light, fun comedy based on Oscar Wilde's play, with Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth.
  10. Becoming Jane. Could my list possibly be complete without a film about the woman behind the literature? I am fascinated by most movies that are based on the lives of authors, composers, artists, etc., and this film about Jane Austen's life is no exception.
All of these films, with the exception of Becoming Jane, are based on classic literature, so I would recommend reading the books first.

(And the only reason I took the time to write this post in the middle of finals is that I already took five finals and cannot stand thinking about studying for more until I have relaxed and unwinded a bit.)

Edited to add -- If you have any suggestions for me based on what I wrote here, please share! :]

Antics of Teenage Girls  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , , ,

My finals start officially start tomorrow (unofficially, I have been in finals mode for the past couple of weeks with tests and essays to write), and I doubt I will have time to post in the next week or two, so I thought I would write up a short little post now about something I observed this week.

There is something sad about the last days of school. It is the end of a chapter of your life, something you can never return to. Therefore, it is understandable that some girls get a bit emotional.

However, what I heard this past week was just strange. We were waiting for our next teacher to come into the classroom, and as I was minding my own business, I heard one girl yell out to another girl across the room:

"____, can we please cry in class? It'd be so fun to cry! Let's cry! Please?!"

She fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you view it) did not see the look I was giving her.

Guys who are still in shidduchim -- good luck! Girls can be strange creatures, to be approached with caution.

With all that said, I must admit that I am very glad to be a girl. It means I won't have to put up with one in the future.