Friday, December 28, 2007

I learned yesterday about the death of Benazir Bhutto, an eminent figure in modern politics and a very revolutionary woman. Benazir Bhutto was the first woman leader in any Muslim country, and noted for being very pro-democracy throughout her (short) life.

Benazir Bhutto's terms in office were riddled with corruption charges, eventually leading to her almost decade long self-exile away from her home in Pakistan.

Bhutto returned to her home in October greeted by her supporters--and a suicide bomber. This effort on her life was not successful, but only two months later, she would be shot as she rose from her heavily armored car, fatally.

The assassination came almost as a surprise to me. Really, that she would be killed seems almost inevitable; Benazir Bhutto was a controversial figure who angered many people. Yet she seemed to be an infallible icon of strength and perseverance, somebody who just couldn't die. All of us have to die sometime, as Benazir Bhutto knew, only she chose to die fighting for what she believed in.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pictures from Xi'an


Some of what's left of an ancient civilization I forgot the name of.


Souvenirs we didn't buy.


Unnamed terra cotta warrior, thought to be Adora Svitak.


The making of mini-terra cotta warriors for souvenirs.


These are not the real terra cotta warriors.


Garbage dump.


Soaring above Xi'an on a cable car. Little did we know a long climb was ahead of us. Speaking of which...


A tiny fraction of what we had to climb.


My mom.


Real terra cotta warriors.

More Pictures From Beijing


View from the apartment window. Chaoyang District, Beijing.


Hot yams. We bought this delectable thing from the man behind me. You can see his coal-fired heater as well. The yam was about a dollar or two dollars.


Sunset at the Summer Palace.


Long hall stretching down between the mountains and the river of the Summer Palace.


Roof of this hall.


No caption.


No caption.


Darkness leads on.

Pictures from Beijing


Amazing acrobats standing on each other hand-lessly pedaling a bike.


More Chaoyang Theatre.


Temple of Heaven, where the Emperor came to pray for better crops, etc.


Sorry, I forget what that is.


Sugar-coated candies. They taste fairly good, but my mom likes them more. Surprisingly, she despises ice cream. My Americanized dessert palate just can't consider these things real dessert!


Presentation at International School of Beijing.


Random rusty rickshaw.


I'm not going to tell how this happened, but where. The Beijing Science Museum provided this magical little unit.


A turkey being carved out of some sort of vegetable/fruit.


Restaurant performance.

Pictures from Viet Nam


Our hotel, the Hotel Majestic (which I would recommend). They left us a chocolate and a Vietnamese legend on the bed everyday.


Me and Miss Viet Nam (you know, the world beauty pageant competition)



Me with (what else) a bouquet of flowers.


Me eating buffet breakfast on the hotel's balcony restaurant in the muggy Vietnamese weather, portrayed against the busy (and no doubt polluted) river.


Me on the set of Talk Vietnam (talk show)


Boat children living in the impoverished area of Viet Nam. I took more than six pictures here. It is shocking to see the sharp contrast of the shacks on stilts here and the high-rises beyond them. Unfortunately, the lens was not big enough to capture this, so you'll have to come to Viet Nam yourself. 

Pictures from Hong Kong


Our hotel in Hong Kong, the Metropark



Posing for pictures on the lawn of Victoria Park (Hong Kong)


In my Standard Chartered Book Festival uniform on the main stage. (Hong Kong.)


With a little girl at the festival. (Hong Kong.)

View of Hong Kong from roof balcony of the Metropark Hotel, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

View from the swimming pool balcony of our hotel. (Hong Kong)


By a model of an old Hong Kong boat at the Hong Kong history museum.


Me by a bridal sedan chair.


Old style bus. New style driver.


Lanterns, Hong Kong museum of history


Looking my solemn-est at the HK museum of history

Sunday, December 02, 2007


This is our last day in Beijing. For the first part of the day, shopped at the Silk Street Market amidst a great crowd of people all trying to get a lower (or higher) price, depending on position. We bought in bulk--three paintings, eighteen postcards, countless parasols, infinite bedcovers, and other things my eyes can't take. It was stuffy and hot. Perhaps it was only my imagination that the heat in the room rose a degree as sellers from all over the floor chorused "Cheap!" "Best price!" or "Silk ______, come take a look!" These persistent people scowled and grimaced, tugged at sleeves, stamped their feet...It is always a comic sight to see some unfortunate person dragged by their cufflinks back into a shop to survey thousands of frivolous trivialities, but not so comic when that person is yourself. Such was our situation.

But when we left with our hands--and minds--full of the vivid fabrics and colors of the Silk Street Market, we were comforted in that at least we had overcome the obstacle of holiday shopping.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Asia Tour

So far in Asia we have traveled to Hong Kong, China; Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam; Xi'an, China; and we are currently in Beijing, China. The following accounts are collected from various emails. Info in brackets []has been written at a later date.

Hong Kong

I am currently sitting in a soft chair pushed in front of a glass-covered wooden desk in the Metropark Hotel, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. The flight was long and tedious but the vegetarian meal was delicious. First I had an Indian meal with assorted vegetables and fruit. The second meal was a bun with butter and wild rice with some sort of bitter sauce...[many of my emails are food related]
For breakfast today we had coupons for the hotel's breakfast buffet, but only for Mommy and Yimei [my aunt]. The waitress said that fee for a child's buffet was eighty-nine dollars. We were all looking stunned at this crazy expense before I thought to ask whether it was Hong Kong dollars.

I had muesli and corn flakes in milk, hardboiled eggs, french toast with jam and fruit yoghurt, heapings of rice noodles with soy sauce, orange-grapefruit juice, orange, grapefruit, strawberry, and pineapple...

After breakfast we walked around a little and entered the small, neat "Tin/Tsin (can't remember the spelling) Hua Temple Park," which smelled of incense. Birds and butterflies flocked about and congregated on the tall and fastidiously swept stone walls.

Yimei left for Shenzhen maybe two hours after breakfast on a bus.
The swimming pool is on a balcony surrounded by pillars looking out onto Hong Kong from the hotel's top floor. We have an excellent view in our room from the huge windows, and our desk is extremely wide. The TV has National Geographic, Discovery, and BBC World Service.
First we had a buffet breakfast and finished at eight forty-five AM. One of the book festival helpers came to pick us up and bring us to a photo shoot in Victoria Park, after which I headed to a school in Kowloon with an impossible nine-word name. The students had amazing English vocabulary and caught on quicker than American students! Their library had much more advanced English classics than Adrianna's junior high school, too, and this was an elementary! They had Anna Karenina, a Tale of Two Cities, etc.

The principal of the school also gave us a very generous gift of CDs and information about the school.

After the school, we came back to Victoria Park for interviews, photos, etc. Angel (one of the book festival helpers) bought lunch from a restaurant called Delifrance and I had soup and salad with croutons, ranch dressing, and salmon. I also had a hardboiled egg and I answered questions from students of an international school. After that there were more interviews, pictures, etc.
Having been invited by the principal of the school, it was the custom for her to therefore choose dishes for everybody. (This was the kind of Chinese restaurant where all the dishes are shared and sanitary protests thrown out the door). The dishes were: duck, pigeon soup, some sort of fowl I didn't care to inquire about, rice with meat in it, etc. I ate some cabbage and a little fish and mango pudding, but I was full anyway. I had a very good sleep. Mommy remarked that she asked me a question and I fell asleep a minute later.

Ho Chi Minh City

We are now in Viet Nam. We have arrived safely and have had a delicious breakfast after a wonderful sleep in the beautiful room [in the Hotel Majestic]. Because the hotel was built some time ago, the ceilings are fairly low and it is very interesting. Vietnam is very hot and humid and Mommy is dying (well, almost).
Today we had a terrifying experience. Vietnam has hardly any traffic lights at all, and is filled with motorbikes and trucks going in all different directions on the same lanes, with broken sidewalks and people going at high speeds while chatting on cell phones without helmets. We had to cross a road by weaving through the motorbikes; there were no lights at all! It was so scary. You [my dad] would hate driving here, nobody follows the rules.

Food is very cheap here. Our dinner bill cost only 600,000 dollars or so—that is, in Vietnamese currency. That equaled, I believe, maybe forty or fifty dollars. Most dishes were around nine dollars or so. I had braised fish with steamed rice and sauce, as well as goat cheese with vinegar on toasted bread and a huge salad with very strong onions. The Japanese prime minister was on a ferry on the river. We didn't see him, but one of the waiters in our hotel whose restaurant was catering the event told us. Yesterday we swam in the pool, went into the private hot tub with a jacuzzi, went into a sauna that smelled of cinnamon, and went into a steambath (which was pretty much the same except [wet and] harder to breathe inside.


Guess where we ate today? IKEA! (The food was awful, though.) It was Chinified McDonald's style. The only decent thing was a generous slice of Black Forest cake which I found very good, and the salad. I wasn't able to eat much at all because most of the dishes had meat in them. I was very tired today because we had to spend a lot of time in the car being . We must have spent about three or four hours in cars total. At least I managed to get a lot of sleep in between, and the school presentation went fairly well.

I didn't even know that I had books hidden on my desk [my dad found some overdue books in my room]. That's good that you managed to find those. There's always a huge pile of books on both of the desks in my room [slightly contradictory to the latter sentence].

Are you making any Thanksgiving plans? Will you make cranberry sauce? Speaking of fruits, the yoghurt here is very strange. All yoghurts are in liquid form and you must drink them. Back to Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving doesn't seem to be a big holiday here at all. In fact, I think that it is pretty much nonexistent. Christmas is growing here, but I heard no Thanksgiving greetings except oen from the principal of the International School which I presented at.

Today [at the International School of Beijing] I was answering an interview for China Daily News. The anchor asked which places I had visited in Beijing so far and I answered "the Forbidden City and...uh, a temple which I forget the name of, it was the temple where the emperor made sacrifices and prayed for better crops..." on camera. I completely forgot the name of the temple. The anchor was coughing anyway so we repeated that and Mommy reminded me that the temple's name was "Temple of Heaven."

The Temple of Heaven was very interesting. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see the Divine Kitchen, which I greatly wanted to see, because they were doing repairs. The rest of the Temple of Heaven was very good, however. Next time when you [my dad, John Svitak] and Adrianna [my older sister] come then maybe we'll be able to see everything.

I hope everything's going well on the home front.

[Here I would also like to mention our visit to Tian'anmen Square. We came on a cold and gusty day so we were forced to confront the menacing winds as well as huge repairs on certain buildings in the Forbidden City, which made seeing some areas impossible...

We also visited the Summer Palace and we were stunned by the grandeur of its chokingly opulent halls, somehow balanced by the serenity of nature. The Summer Palace's walkways were painted in gerat detail, inspired by the different areas in China. These walkways, splendidly designed, provided a divider between the majestic mountains and the calm, rippling waters, fringed by Beijing's skyline; my mom told me that during China's Cultural Revolution, the Summer Palace was in danger; however, it has remained wonderfully preserved and continues to be a stunning sight today.

In the Summer Palace we learned about the extravagance and waste of the imperial age; the amount of silver that the Dowager Empress Cixi spent on one meal was enough to feed four families for five years--she had four meals a day, and one hundred dishes each meal. This is hard enough to imagine seeing, much less even tasting. Who knows what happened to these dishes?

Speaking of Cixi--she was given a large amount of money to begin a Chinese navy. Instead, she built (or, rather, had her laborers build) a beautiful white marble boat that could not sail but could not sink. This is just one of the objects that highlights the impracticalities of the imperial age.

After we went to the Summer Palace we ate a wonderful dinner and caught the sleeper train at one of the largest train stations in Asia to Xi'an]


The sleeper train was very nicely furnished and comfortable. On the train, we met a doctor from the UK named Ben, who didn't speak any Chinese so it would have been quite hard to get a ticket. He is traveling around the world in eighty days. Ben is staying at the same hotel [the Sofitel] so we are seeing a lot of sights together. Some of these include: the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which is a Buddhist pagoda with a very nice garden, and we saw a calligraphy museum [Beilin Temple] (which I must confess was not very interesting to me) and ate in the Muslim Quarter of Xi'an.

[Speaking of Ben, you can see his blog at, which I would recommend very much.]
We saw the Shaanxi History Museum [which needed some work but had some very interesting artifacts from Zhou, Qin, etc. dynasties] and right now we are wondering what to do, having seen a great deal of different sights here in Xi'an.
We bought a few things from (and got a lot of business for) an old lady from the same part of China that Mommy comes from [Guizhou] and the exact same village [Kaili] too. We were walking around Xi'an a little bit.

We bought swimsuits (Mommy having forgotten ours in Beijing) at the huge seven story shopping mall, met a family from South Africa (well, Scottish on their mother's side), talked, left, then went to the Muslim Quarter again to buy fruit, went swimming in the hotel's spacious and generously heated pool/hot tub and I did the excercise machines. After this we went upstairs and took a shower under the giant 1920s style showerhead, watched some CNN/BBC [World], and went to bed under our very nice sheets. A very nice day.
Well, I had a sore throat, so Mommy wanted to find me some tea. As it happened, we stumbled on a very nice teahouse after coming from the Internet cafe, and they did everything in a very traditional way and explained it to us. They used a different teapot for the different types of tea, and told us about the different customs, etc., and Mommy bought some very nice tea. There was a very funny peach style teapot--with no lid. One poured boiling water in through the bottom and (somehow) it didn't come out even when you put it right side up. There was another teapot with a black dragon, that turned golden when you poured hot water in it, and black again when it cooled. I liked the tea quite a bit.

Back in Beijing

We're back in Beijing. We came back in rush hour and the station we came to was the largest in Asia, so we were caught up in a queue (if you could call it a queue--more of a pushing, shouting, spitting, smoking mass) of people. We tried to get on a bus but everybody kept pushing and trying to get onto the bus in the worst way so Mommy decided that we might as well get on a taxi instead.

It took about an hour to get back to the apartment and I slept in the car. I have a sore throat now and I had a slight fever yesterday night so I was still a bit sleepy when we arrived at seven in the morning.
Today since I have a fever Mommy wants me to recover and get some good rest so we are lounging around in the apartment [my mom's friend's apartment] reading, watching news, doing stuff on the computer, etc.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Another Story I Wrote with Contributions from PLK CKY School, Kowloon

Adora skipped along on the wet sidewalk with her unruly hair billowing out behind her. A large stream flowed in front of her. She paused and pursed her lip, staring determinedly at the muddy water. A huge table of food lay beyond the stream, and the smell of pizza was entrancing her so much that she couldn’t resist.
But she trembled at the icy touch of the water as she dipped her toes into the stream. It was a strong current for a stream, and she did not intend to get swept away in the cold water.
“Hesitant, hmm?” a snotty voice came from a tree bending over the stream. Adora jumped at the thought that the tree was speaking, but a pink-haired boy jumped out from the branches and smirked at her. “I was never scared of water, myself. Of course, nobody can really compare to my bravery.”
It was Bryan Relup, but Adora did not know this, and put her hands on her hips, frowning at the stranger.
“Hey there, can you cross the river NOW?” Adora demanded. “I’d like to see you paddle across that.”
“What do you mean, paddle? That word is for scum. I actually swim,” Bryan said superiorly. “And anyway, it was only an accident that I ended up here.”
Somehow, Adora knew that it was not just an accident.

Story I Wrote With Contributions from PLK CKY School in Kowloon


I really enjoyed speaking at your school and I look forward to seeing your own endings of this story below!



Jason laughed loudly at the word problem in front of him, as he had done with the two others. Whoever had written them had certainly done a good job with the descriptions of the numbers of brands of chocolate. He finished the last word problem and jumped up from his chair.
BANG! There was a sudden noise from the driveway, like a car flipping on its side or an explosion of gunpowder or dynamite. Jason jumped back as ash and debris cluttered his windowsill.
“Aaaaah!” he screamed in a girlish, high-pitched voice, falling back into his trash can, which was stuffed full with pencil shavings and dissected insects. There were shouts and suddenly all went black.

“Think he’s going to wake up, Nick?”
Jason rubbed his eyes and looked around him. He sluggishly rose at first, but jumped as he noticed the unfamiliar surroundings—he was in a blue-brown room with a thick iron door, and a circle of masked people had gathered around him.
“Where am I?” he shouted hysterically.
“You are currently under armed guard, little boy,” one of the people said curtly, a man from his voice, Jason thought. “Best not to speak until the Head Wizard allows you to.”
“Head wizard? Are you some sort of circus or something?” Jason asked in disbelief.
“A CIRCUS? You insult our ancestors, boy! How dare you say such a thing! The Simpallpaugus Snort van Drag Iam family—”
“Definitely a circus,” Jason muttered to himself. Louder, he said,
“So, where am I…and where are my parents?”
“Oh, we’re not sure that you’ll ever find that out,” the same man said with a smirk, pulling off his mask and revealing a scarred face. “Nope, I don’t think you ever will.” He smiled in a very sinister way and, motioning to his entourage, slammed the door shut.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Menu for my Imaginary Country

The Promenade
Restaurant and Winery
188 Orient Avenue
Penthouse, the Crimson Building


The Promenade Special: Gourmet cheeses accented by wine of the day and organic apples with salad. $10.92

A Rustic Flair: Biscuits and smoked salmon. $6.38

Summer Delight: Sliced orange garnished by goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes. $6.00

Verandah Crunch: Mixed nuts with plain yogurt. $6.00

The Alleyway: Pumpernickel bread with honey-brie cheese. $9.99


Catch of the Day: Halibut, salmon, mackerel, or tilapia, grilled to perfection. $32.60

The Clam Shack: Fresh clams lightly breaded with honey-coated multi-grain. $28.00

Pasta Canasta: A variety of noodles with ravioli and tortellini, complimented by basil tomato sauce and Shiitake mushrooms. Salmon on request. $29.95

Countryside Platter: Organic veal, pork, and lamb, with parmesan cheese and rigatoni. $36.34

Wind of the Sea: Salmon teriyaki with clams, oysters, mussels, and dulse. $29.99

Vegetarian Variety: Platter of fake meats and breads with one salad of your choice. We do not use cows’ milk, eggs, or other animal products. $23.98

Three-cheese pizza: Our pizza features goat cheese, mozzarella, and gorgonzola, with sun-dried tomatoes. Our cheeses use vegetable rennet. All of our pizzas are baked in our traditional wood ovens. $34.99

Vegetable pizza: A variety of vegetables with mozzarella cheese and deep-dish crust. $38.99

Side Dishes

Potato slices: Accented by rosemary, basil, paprika, thyme, dill, and oregano, our potato slices are baked a golden brown. $11.99

Rice Variety: Black, brown, white, and purple rice. $11.00

Small breads: Multi-grain, white, potato, and cornbread in miniature size. $12.30

Soups and Salads

Farmer's Pride: Butternut Squash soup with cilantro. $18.22

Fisherman's Best: Genuine clam chowder with vegetables and breadsticks. $19.99

Mushroom Lovers: Cream of mushroom soup with herbs. $16.00

Sweet Salad: Mixed fruits and vegetables garnished by grass. $17.99

Multitask Salad: Meat, seafood, fake meats, fruit, and vegetables. $37.00

Keep it Simple: Lettuce and cabbage garnished by grass. $10.00


Dark chocolate and mocha ice cream bar $27.00

Island Sorbet (orange, lemon, lime, and coconut flavored sorbets) $30.00

Fudge squares with chocolate chip ice cream, garnished by assorted candies $29.99

Chocolate cheesecake slice $23.00

Tiramisu cake slice $23.99

Chocolate hazelnut cake slice $23.00

Coffee cake $22.76

Assorted fruit with whipped cream $18.67

Plain sponge cake slice topped by fresh fruit and sugar glaze (gelatin-free) $23.00

Variety ice cream (chocolate-chip, fudge chocolate, vanilla, vanilla-chocolate, raspberry cheesecake, dark chocolate, huckleberry, blackberry, strawberry)


Cognac (aged 12 years) $210.00

Chardonnay (8 years) $156.99

Cranberry cocktail $52.99

(For full list of our wine selections, ask your server)

Non-alcoholic: Fresh orange/grapefruit juice, iced cranberry juice, any of the former with carbonated water, bottled water, mineral/vitamin water.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Vietnamese Cuisine

As I will be going on an Asia tour this November through Hong Kong, Beijing, and Vietnam, I am doing some research on Vietnamese cuisine--just in case some if its not-so-savory sounding foods (dog meat, for instance) disturb my semi-vegetarian diet during my stay.

According to, a website I would strongly recommend for research on Vietnam, the French had a large influence on Vietnamese food because of their colonization of Vietnam. One obvious influence is French bread.

According to, one popular dish, with noticeable French roots, is the "Vietnamese baguette, French bread containing paté, Vietnamese mayo, different selections of Vietnamese cold cuts and deli (a large variety, most commonly with ham, head cheese, and a Vietnamese bologna), pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber slices. Often garnished with coriander, black pepper."

Another influence on Vietnam's cuisine was neighboring China. There are many similarities between Chinese food and Vietnamese; rice is a staple part of diet, there are a lot of vegetables, and many people eat meats like chicken and pork. China's "baozi" inspired the Vietnamese Banh bao.

Some of Vietnam's more "exotic" meats include fertilized duck eggs (eating a nearly-developed embryo), snake, soft-shell turtle, and goat. Some of these are, however, according to,

"cocktail delicacies" with alcohol, and are not considered typical everyday

According to Wikipedia, "Its [Vietnam's] characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (Serrano peppers), sour (lime), nuoc mam (fish sauce), and flavored by a variety of mint and basil."

Vietnam is also famous for its noodle dishes, which are acclaimed around the world.

And although dog meat and fertilized duck eggs may sound strange, keep in mind that American monstrosities like hot dogs and French fries probably seem weird to a lot of people!

Phrases of my Imaginary Country

Phrase: One hobbling crook is better than ninety-two strong monks.

Definition: One "bad" person who is too weak to do anything is better than ninety-two "good" people who are strong and zealous.

Origins: After the reign of Voledads' first duarchy, a religiously devout sister and brother pair, the Trinansitic archbishop took control of the country and installed harsh rules against those opposed to the Trinansitic faith. Monks were the new "bad guys" in their violent searches, secret surveillance systems, and total control of the legal system.

Phrase: Hag's Revenge

Definition: Hag's Revenge means a medicine that does more harm than good.

Origins: Alternative medicines became popular in the 1970s with the rise in buying of foreign goods and "exotic" objects. Alternative medicines, which were also known as "Hagfood" for the alternative apothecary stereotype (generally old women in the popular imagination), were soon at the center of a nationwide scandal, due to toxic elements found in some alternative medicines.

Phrase: Cutting cupboards

Definition: Conserving space

Origins: As cramped immigrant tenements, stylish condominiums, and massive villas sprouted up across Voledads, conserving space became a neccessary part of life. Cupboards, the traditional Voledadian storage unit, were usually heavy wood pieces of furniture, with such ornate decorations and add-ons that took up a great deal of space. The cupboards often stored less than they weighed, so many households in urbanized areas began "cutting cupboards."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

One of My Imaginary Country's Founders

Voledads is the imaginary country I have created in class. One of the country's founders is Emilio Iodeco van Sprawitz, more commonly referred to as Emilio van Sprawitz. Like many Voledadians, he was born in Maintana, but his father, Franklin van Sprawitz, was from Carmellan. Emilio van Sprawitz was born in 1698, the middle child of a middle-class merchant’s sprawling family of seventeen. Emilio's grandmother observed from the beginning that he was strangely calm, cautious, and observant for a small child.

Emilio van Sprawitz attended the College of Hull and Brownstone-Morris, famous for the study of psychology and law, on a scholarship for law at the age of thirteen. Contrasting sharply with his young childhood and later adulthood, Emilio was a rather rowdy sort in college, carousing about with the higher class and accumulating large debts. He studied law very seriously, however.

Emilio van Sprawitz was the main author of the constitution, which was drafted in 1738, after the deposal of Voledads’ most powerful monarch, Otto IV.

Emilio van Sprawitz wrote propaganda papers for the revolutionary cause, headed diplomacy missions for foreign aid, and helped install the first constitutionally-ruled oligarchy. Emilio van Sprawitz served as an advisor to the oligarchy for three terms (each term equaling one year), and was nominated to the oligarchy. He agreed (somewhat reluctantly, and after a great deal of prodding) to run for a seat in the oligarchy and won a winning vote, but died before he could assume his post.

Emilio van Sprawitz led educational reform and helped lower crime ratings, but he was often criticized for his Draconian ways—he notoriously made repeated misdemeanors punishable by death.

One hot June day, Emilio van Sprawitz set out on a recreational fishing trip in his yacht with a number of other political figures. Van Sprawitz was chatting with a number of people in the cigar lounge when someone lit a gunpowder fuse. It exploded in the West Wing of the boat, the site of the cigar lounge. Van Sprawitz and those in the cigar lounge died instantly. Van Sprawitz’s assassinator was never found, and it is still up in the air whether the assassinator intended to kill him or another person.

One interesting fact was that was only revealed after his death was that Van Sprawitz was very scared of cats, and had two pit bulls stationed at the back door of his immense country house to guard specially against his neighbor’s tomcats.

If I Really Became an Expert...This is Me in 20 Years


I studied China extensively in college and graduate school, set many of my works in China, traveled to China and interviewed locals for more information on the history of specific areas. I majored in Chinese history in college and graduate school. To learn more about China, I have visited China, Taiwan, and England (England having had quite a bit of control in China some time ago), as well as Japan to investigate China’s ancient influences.

My income comes from a variety of sources--I host my own History Channel program on Ancient China for middle/high school students, which is a large success in schools and dishes in quite a bit of money. I am also a spokesperson for the Chinese government’s tourism program to publicize Chinese museums and artifacts and raise international awareness about China’s rich history. My various books are national bestsellers and many schools across the country have invested in textbooks I have co-authored.

My books (some of which I’m still working on) include:

The Shadowed Specialist: An Intimate Look at the Life of China’s First Female Historian (New York bestseller list for two years running and winner of the Pulitzer Prize)
The Middle Kingdom (A general textbook on Ancient China)
China’s Role in Today’s Economy (a look at China’s influence in business and featured in Forbes, Businessweek, and Fortune Magazine)
The Invaders: Mongols in China
Museums in China: Great Places for the Whole Family
(a guidebook to Chinese museums, distributed by the Chinese government)
Time Tunnel: the Xia Dynasty
Time Tunnel: The Shang Dynasty
Time Tunnel: The Zhou Dynasty
(all Time Tunnel books are brief, hardcover books with slippery pages and lots of photos aimed at elementary school children. There are Time Tunnel books for most of China’s dynasties and the Cultural Revolution.)
The Lonely Bronze Vessel: An Exploration of the Designs of the Shang Dynasty
Chinese Architecture.

My house is stainless white, with brick siding, two floors, and four grand pillars holding up a triangular extension of the roof over the expansive porch. A balcony with ornate railing juts out from the main bedroom, directly above the black door. My parlor is frequented by prominent historians and literary figures, some of whom stay the night in one of my five color-themed guest bedrooms. My office is bamboo-floored with large Victorian windows and reading cushions. I have a large Rose Garden (pesticide free), which is also the site of history reenactments by the neighborhood children to raise money for good causes.

My routine is like this: Everyday I wake up late and have a breakfast of hot pinhead oats or organic cereal, after which I proceed to my office, check email on my sleek black laptop, and proceed with work on my latest book. My sister Adrianna, the eminent musician, comes every so often to give a concert in the Rose Garden to raise money for charitable organizations, but my real reason for inviting her is her delicious cooking, and sometimes she makes me lunch.
I take naps around two PM and wake up promptly at three twenty-five to (weather permitting) give lectures in the Rose Garden or inside my house to raise money for charitable organizations. After these lectures I do physical exercise and whatever else I want. My dinner table is quite long—I eat with a number of famous personages before we all watch a movie in my home theater.

Some of the greatest sources of happiness in my life include seeing children—or adults, for that matter—become interested in history; discovering new things in my research on China; spending time with my family; and getting the feeling that I’m actually doing something that will impact the world.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

A mermaid reminiscing self-contentedly, a linnet in a cage "that never knew the summer woods," a bugle call in a woman's college, the mysterious Lady of Shalott…
Dive into the world of Alfred, Lord Tennyson with Sterling Publishing's Alfred, Lord Tennyson, part of the Poetry for Young People series. Vivid illustrations by Allen Garns bring Alfred, Lord Tennyson's works to life for the whole family.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson is a great read for children and parents alike. The depth of his topics will spark interest for adults, while the wonderful texture, beautiful illustrations, and imagery-rich poetry of the hardcover book will entrance children.
Some of my favorite features include the vocabulary definitions at the bottom of each poem. While some books may include definitions, they sometimes take so long to find that they turn off most readers in today's hurried world. The Poetry for Young People series takes care of that problem and teaches children new words in the process.
Another great feature are the in-depth biographies in the beginning of the book. Ideal for class projects or learning on your own about different poets, information is presented concisely, yet gives detailed information.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson is a wonderful introduction to literature for everybody. I heartily recommend the book for a nuanced and well-rounded look at the poetry of one of England's most renowned Victorian poets.

Sterling Publishing's Albert Einstein Book

Does the name “Albert Einstein” make you remember—or dread—a stuffy classroom and a teacher droning about relati-something while the class sleeps on?
Or perhaps “Albert Einstein” sparks memories—or excitement—about trailblazing in the fascinating world of science.
Either way, you should probably pick up a book.
Recently I read Albert Einstein: The Miracle Mind. An engrossing biography by Tabatha Yeatts and part of the Sterling Biographies series, Einstein is a thorough look at Einstein’s life and times and the influences that shaped him.
I would recommend Einstein to all ages, especially school-age children. Vocabulary words with definitions, ample visuals for enhanced reading enjoyment, and concise information panels all combine to create a wonderful tool for school projects or learning on your own. The compactness and texture of the hardcover book will strongly appeal to children.
Although some kids may back away at the word “biography,” Tabatha Yeatt’s unique voice makes Einstein flow like a fiction story. For instance, at the end of Chapter 3: “He [Einstein] didn’t give her a reason, but it might have been because he had met the woman he would marry: a fellow student named—”
You’ll have to find that out yourself!

Becoming an Expert: Part 3

I was looking for night reading--something exciting, perhaps, fiction, most definitely--in my mom's bedroom, when, scanning the shelves line by line, stumbled upon a brobdingnagian tome titled Ancient Civilizations. The six hundred and eighty-eight page book wasn't exactly night reading, I decided. It did, however, have plenty of information on China, so today we'll learn about the Shang Dynasty.

According to Ancient Civilizations, the Shang (also known as the Yin) dynasty, was China's "first truly historical dynasty," lasting from around 1550 to 1045 BCE. The Shang dynasty’s Cheng Tang wrested power out of the hands of his predecessor, King Jie of the Xia Dynasty (citing The Records of the Historian by Sima Qian). The Shang state was centered in what is now called the Huabei Pingyuan (North China Plain), an expansive lowland area extending across north central China. Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2008. © 1993-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Many artifacts dated from the Shang Dynasty, such as bronze vessels, turtle-shells, ox-bones, and sculptures, have been found. The quote below about the Shang Dynasty from Microsoft Encarta ® 2008 illustrates the extent of Shang texts:

“Shang texts exist primarily in the form of carvings in the Shang
script on animal bones and shells.
These inscriptions recorded the king’s
divinations (ritual acts designed to forecast the future). More than 200,000
fragments of the so-called oracle-bone inscriptions have been found. They
provide an account of the daily concerns of the last nine Shang kings, from the
21st king, Wu Ding, to the 29th king, Di Xin.”

According to Civilizations, the Shang features of life were changed visibly when King Wu Ding extended Shang power, which made the Shang dynasty exposed to the innovations of the west, such as the introduction of the chariot.

The last days of the Shang Dynasty were not very impressive. Divinations continued regularly; bronze styles did not progress; military and political power was “limited,” from Ancient Civilizations. Even the tombs of the last Shang kings were looted. However, we get some view of what these tombs would have been like from the intact tomb of King Wu Ding’s consort, Fu Hao. Encarta says about Fu Hao’s tomb:

“It offers a glimpse of how the others would have been furnished with a lavish
assortment of cast bronzes (vessels, bells, mirrors, and weapons), carved jade
ornaments, pottery, and objects made of ivory and marble.”

This ostentatious variety of valuable antiquities sounds like a fitting end to the Shang Dynasty and this article.


Chinese Dynasties
China was ruled by dynasties, a line of rulers from the same family, for thousands of years. The last emperor was forced from power in 1911, bringing dynastic rule in China to an end.

Major events

2205?-1570? bc
agriculture, bronze, first writing
Shang or Yin
1570?-1045? bc
first major dynasty; first Chinese calendar, metallurgy, uniform writing code
1045?-256 bc
developed society using money, iron, written laws; age of Confucius
221-206 bc
unification after period of Warring States, building of Great Wall begun, roads built
206 bc-ad 220
first centralized and effectively administered empire; introduction of Buddhism
Three Kingdoms Period
division into three states, prolonged fighting and eventual victory of the state of Wei over Chu and Wu; Confucianism superseded by Buddhism and Daoism (Taoism)
beginning of Hun invasions in the north
reunification; barbarian invasions stopped; Great Wall refortified
centralized government; empire greatly extended; period of excellence in sculpture, painting, and poetry
Wu Dai(Five Dynasties)
economic depression and loss of territory in northern China, central Asia, and Korea; first use of paper money
period of calm and creativity; printing developed (movable type); central government restored; northern and western frontiers neglected and Mongol incursions begun
beginning of Mongol rule in China, under Kublai Khan; Marco Polo visited China; dynasty brought to an end by widespread revolts, centered in Mongolia
Mongols driven out by native Chinese, Mongolia captured by 2nd Ming emperor; period of architectural development; Beijing flourished as new capital
China once again under non-Chinese rule, the Qing conquered by nomads from Manchuria; trade with the West; culture flourished, but conservatism eventually led to the dynasty's overthrow by nationalistic revolutionaries led by Sun Yatsen
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2008. © 1993-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


"Shang Dynasty." Microsoft Encarta 2008.

“Ancient Civilizations.” General Editor: Professor Greg Woolf.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Advice for Young Authors on Getting Published

Suggestions for Getting Published
Getting published depends on finding a publisher who is looking for what you are presenting. Publishers have publishing plans that determine exactly what books they need for each new season—mysteries, adventure stories, travel books, cook books, etc. They also have target markets in mind—adults, young adults, middle-grade readers, or very young readers. An excellent resource for finding publishers that might be interested in your work is The Writer's Market, a book available in the reference section of most libraries.
The following is a partial list of book and magazine publishers that are particularly interested in publishing the work of young authors.
Cicada Magazine
Carus Publishing Co.
315 Fifth Street
Peru, IL 61354
Editor: Marianne Carus
This monthly literary magazine for young adults accepts young author submissions. See the Submissions page in the magazine for details.
Cicada also has an online forum for authors 14 and up called “The Slam,” where you can submit poetry and short-short stories for critique by other teens. View online at
Cricket Magazine
Cricket League
P.O. Box 300
Peru, IL 61354
Editor: Marianne Carus
This monthly literary magazine for children ages 9-14 includes a section called "Cricket League," which is a story, art, or poetry contest. See magazine for specific contests, or view online at
Creative Kids Magazine
Submissions Editor
Creative Kids
P.O. Box 8813
Waco, TX 76714-8813
A magazine by and for kids that publishes cartoons, songs, stories, puzzles, photographs, artwork, games, editorials, poetry, plays, and other creative work by kids ages 8-14. Check out their website for details.
Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431-1895
A monthly educational magazine for children ages 2-12. Accepts children's work for special sections such as “My Favorite Books” and “Science Letters.” Also accepts children's black-and-white and color artwork. Check out their website for details.
Landmark Editions, Inc.
Contest for Students
Landmark Editions, Inc.
1904 Foxridge Drive
Kansas City, KS 66106
This publishing company publishes books by young writers exclusively. Check out their website for details about their contests.
New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams
New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams
2 W First Street #101
Duluth, MN 55802
Managing Editor: Joe Kelly
This magazine features original poetry, fiction, articles, and artwork from girls all over the world. Their website has details on how to submit.
Stone Soup
Stone Soup
Submissions Dept.
PO Box 83
Santa Cruz, CA 95063
A literary magazine written entirely by children. Accepts stories, poems, nonfiction, book reviews, and artwork by children up to age 13. A forum for budding artists and authors.
Young Voices Magazine
P.O. Box 2321
Olympia, WA 98507
A quarterly magazine publishing children’s stories, poems, art, and essays. Write for sample copy and guidelines.
Also check out this website for more places that accept submissions from kids:
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illutrators: Rocky Mountain Chapter
Resources for Young Writers and Illustrators
We hope that you keep writing and submitting your work to publishers. The thing to keep in mind is that getting published is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Don't give up. And remember: Whenever you send something to a publisher, be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with enough postage to cover the cost of returning your work. Good luck!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Experts in China

My daily travails on the Internet today--on Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica--led me to find the notable Ban Zhao. Born in AD 45, Anling, Gufang [now Xianyang, Shaanxi province], China (according to the Encyclopedia Britannica), Ban Zhao was China's first female historian (according to Wikipedia). This was very unique in a country that, at the time, treasured boys over girls in most situations. Married at age fourteen, Ban Zhao was known as the Venerable Madame Cow. Cow? Fine, Cao.

While there is no definite information on Ban Zhao’s humble beginnings, I would assume that Ban Zhao first became interested in history for practical reasons. History seemed to be in Ban Zhao's blood. Her father, Ban Biao, had begun a history of the Han Dynasty (the Book of Han). The emperor commissioned Biao's son (and Ban Zhao's brother), Ban Gu, to complete the work, after their father's death. Ban Zhao helped her brother and took up the task after her brother was executed for an unrelated matter. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica,

"The resulting Han shu ("Book of Han") is one of the best-known histories
ever written and the model for all future dynastic histories in China."

As a widow and an "exemplary scholar" (Britannica), Ban Zhao was made a lady-in-waiting to the Empress. Ban Zhao was also into literature--she wrote numerous poems and essays, the most famous of which is the Nüshi (also spelled Nu Jie), or Lessons for Women. Lessons for Women is a volume on good behavior for women. The following quote, courtesy of the UCLA Center for East Asian Studies, is taken from Lessons for Women.

"I, the unworthy writer, am unsophisticated, unenlightened, and by nature
unintelligent, but I am fortunate both to have received not a little favor from
my scholarly Father, and to have had a cultured mother and teachers upon whom to
rely for a literary education as well as for training in good

Although Ban Zhao seems to have a low opinion of herself, she was one of China’s most prominent historians and women. She gave me an idea of the life of an educated woman in Ancient China; her collaborative effort on the Book of Han dished out, as Britannica said earlier above, "one of the best-known histories ever written"; Ban Zhao persevered throughout her lifetime and Ancient China.

"Ban Zhao." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
27 Sept. 2007

"Ban Zhao." Wikipedia. 2007.
Wikipedia Online.
27 Sept. 2007

“Lessons for Women: Ban Zhao.” UCLA. 2007.
UCLA Online.
27 Sept. 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Becoming an Expert: Part 2

Continuing my quest to become an expert, today I read about the profitable smuggling trade of Chinese antiques. According to the Economic Times at, powered by India Times, Hong Kong "has become the legitimate outlet for ill-gotten treasures of Chinese history, a legal market for legally obtained objects that can and do command large sums."

This event made me remember learning about Napoleon's soldiers invading Egypt and breaking off a Sphinx's nose. While the acts of breaking off a Sphinx's nose and trading valuable artifacts have considerable differences, the latter does seem reminiscent of the former.

While I am solidly against the illegal trade of Chinese artifacts and angry at the smugglers, I think that the Chinese government should take more measures with the policing of artifact smuggling, as well as more effort in programs to find artifacts before smugglers discover them.

Some new questions: What efforts does the Chinese government put into stopping smugglers? What areas in China are the most heavily populated with artifacts? From what dynasty have the most artifacts been found?

See you next time on Experts in China!

A Trip to Whole Foods

The familiarly large "Whole Foods Market" sign in green loomed ahead of us. How an unobtrusive, material green sign could remind me of an hour's worth of delicious samples and galloping wild through the aisles of delicious everything! We walked less-than-demurely inside to be greeted by large bouquets of flowers. My sister Adrianna and I snooped about the samples. There was something rather sneaky about eating samples.
Eating ice cream from Whole Foods seemed somehow more justified than from some other store. Perhaps it was because most were boldly emblazoned with "Organic." Perhaps it was because of Whole Foods' reputation as a healthy store gave ice cream this reputation as well. Perhaps it was because Whole Foods ice cream was most often very good. Simply looking at ice cream made me giddy with anticipation, thinking of mouthfuls of chocolate chocolate-chip...being in the ice cream section melted away all the day's worries, temporarily at least.
After all our shopping was done, I hopped back in the car, weighed down with all the bags to carry, but feeling as though I could levitate off the ground with satisfaction.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Becoming an Expert: Part 1

Today my topic is Ancient Chinese history. As part of my quest to become an expert on Ancient Chinese history, today I looked at

This website is the History Channel's look at Ancient China. Usually each section (i.e., the T'ang Dynasty) is brief and summarized, but it still gives well-rounded information about different time periods in Chinese history. This is a quote that raised some new questions for me:

"The Han emperors followed the Confucian principle of appointing men on the basis of merit rather than birth. Written examinations were adopted as a means of determining the best qualified people. In the late 2d century BC an imperial university was established, in which prospective bureaucrats were trained in the five classics of the Confucian school." What were the five classics? How long did you have to prepare for the written examinations? Who made the examinations? How long were the examinations, and what was the passing grade? I wish we had an exam for politicians to pass today.

Another interesting website is According to Bartleby's article, "there were three principal classes in Shang times: hereditary nobles and their families, commoners, and slaves (often sacrificially buried) who were largely war captives." Sacrificially buried sparked some questions for me--were they buried alive? dead? Either way, it's a little grisly-sounding. It makes me wonder whether China had any limits for its different methods of punishment or law enforcement.

Information on both of these two sites sometimes "overlap," going over the same subjects, but in general, you will find a nuanced choice of facts to showcase. I greatly enjoyed looking at both websites and I hope that readers will be able to leave comments about their own observations. Join me next time for Becoming an Expert: Part 2!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Focus of Expertise: Chinese History

Imagine yourself in a land of red-tiled buildings with sweeping roofs and gardens at every turn, your footsteps pressing the ground where the Emperor might have walked. Who could resist entering the Forbidden City of Chinese history? As my new "Focus of Expertise," I will be studying Chinese history and posting updates on my blog.

My topic will span some of the country's development through the years. I chose Chinese history because I (most ashamedly) know little about it, because China is a large and growing world power today, and because, of course, I am half-Chinese.

From various biographical and historical fiction readings, I have some understanding of Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution, as well as (less so, however) Ancient China.

The following questions are some that I hope to answer and that I hope possibly that some of my readers will be able to answer.

How and when was China settled by humans? How did the first emperor come to be the first emperor, and who was he? What was the Chinese people's attitude to different rulers over time?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Third-person perspective of my day

It was a day much like any other, except that it was a weekend day and Adora and Adrianna were anxious to line up in the kitchen, should they just barely miss the introduction to 60 Minutes. Adora ate very little but did cram a grape leaf most rudely into her mouth. She also took a fearsome swig of cranberry-raspberry juice before departing to lounge on the carpet.

Before this, the morning was bright and cheery and fresh. Sunlight streamed through the two windows in the bathroom/bedroom. Adora had slept here for the last two nights. The bed was of dark and creaky wood that gathered dust with its infrequent use. It groaned and squeaked as she rose sluggishly off of it to dress and put her hairpins in order atop her much mussed hair.

The family sat down to a large Sunday breakfast of waffles with sugar-powdered raspberries. Despite the splendor of the day outside, the house remained an inferno of papers and pants strewn all about, sharpener-shavings embedded in the carpet, pine cones littered about the downstairs floor...

All of this, of course, needed to be changed, and what a better day to ruin with the loud and droning Vroom-vroom-vroom of the vacuum than a beautiful weekend?

This is a parent's point of view.

The children begged to differ.


After a long time spent in cleaning--or, as the case might be, hiding from those who were doing the cleaning--the family set off (most exhaustedly) ambling away in the pill-buggish minivan for the week's shopping. Among some of the items bought:

Almond cheese

Jarlsberg cheese (much to the children's chagrin)

Monterey Jack cheese




Laundry detergent

Tissue paper
And so on.
Comfortably propped up in bed against a blue faux-fur monster of a pillow lay a girl preparing to turn off her computer...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Trip Crabbing

Last weekend we went crabbing with our aunt and uncle near the Canadian-Washingtonian border. We started out in our aunt and uncle's golden car, which always reminds me distinctly of a fat pill-bug. We piled our things in the car haphazardly--my backpack rolled around at my feet in front of a keyboard-print pillow and a large green cooler, while our uncle bombarded us with math questions pertaining to the number of days it would take to drive so many miles, etc. These questions were successfully answered, and we soon settled into a long discussion about various types of food.! Our first stop was at the Bellingham's Farmer's Market, a large and busy place, smelling of kettle corn, herbs, and cheese sticks. Some of the booths were more homogeneous, lined up in much the same way with the same white canopies stretched over the poles. Others were more conspicuous, shading some creative artisan behind hat-stands or sculptures or jewelry. We purchased some fruit and vegetables (not to mention a temptingly sweet bag of sugar-coated pecans, and a cheese stick). The sugar-coated pecans had the texture of an obstinately hard vitamin, the crunchiness and crispness of an overbaked cookie, and had the same filling taste as a gulpful of sweet lemonade.
Our next stop was to start crabbing. Our other aunt and uncle were there, as well as our maternal grandparents. The crab-nets were heavy and bothersome. I watched (entranced) as our gloved aunt put a raw chicken leg into a small cage inside the nets as bait for the hungry crabs. Our other uncle threw the net, like a frisbee, into the murky water, where it splashed like a skipping stone. We waited expenctantly over a delicious lunch.
My aunt was at the epicenter of this lunch, chopping tomatoes and cucumbers while talking loudly in Chinese, watching the lines of our crab nets until she determined they were ready to pull, and laying out tasks for her minions (our uncle and me) to complete. Namely, putting cheese and/or ham into the sandwiches. Our grandmother's lunch seemed to be made up entirely of peanuts and watermelon, although I could be wrong.
We caught a great deal of small crabs, one of whom seemed to be in raw-chicken-leg paradise, having managed to get halfway into the cage and feast upon his reward. We threw him back. My sister's official role was to prod the little crabs who got stuck on a bit of the dock that protruded out beyond our reach, with a chopstick or popsicle stick or whatever struck her fancy. I helped, and felt a feeling of satisfaction afterwards, as though I had saved the world. (It is a simliar feeling when one gives an ant struggling with a bread-crumb a lift in your palm back to its home.)
Every so often I would observe the number of crabs lounging in the tepid water inside my aunt's hat-shaded bucket. I thought it was over six, although I never would know for sure.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

morning writing exercise-writing from a smell

The Vase was of roughly hewn rock, with jagged ends, razor-sharp. Inside the Vase was a large bouquet of gaudy garden flowers, made for show, smelling of commercial success in some retailer across the country. It would have to be across the country—across the sea, more likely—because the Vase’s Owner lived, frugally, upon a remote atoll in the ocean. The Vase did not merit any collectors’ qualities. The Owner simply liked the rough and roguish charm of razor-sharp rock and its juxtaposition with the flowers.
It was daytime when the Owner set out to fish. The Owner, being an fisherman, did not like to fish. What soul who had engaged in forty-eight long years of fishing would like to? The Vase made for an excellent fish-catcher when attached to a rod of any wood. As for the flowers? They made an excellent garland on the sea—the Owner could get more from where they came from.
The Owner’s routine was always the same. He woke up, he fished, he ate, he cleaned the Vase, and he slept. It was always the same on the solitary island. His routine was broken on a Wednesday morning, however, when a dark, cloaked stranger approached the cave. He bore a letter in his hands, stamped with the seal of a far-off king. He wore a long, sharp knife at his belt. The Owner shivered.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

(Voledads is the imaginary country I created in school.)

[Set opens in VWTV (Voledads World Television) Studio. Bryant Ethers, the imperious anchor of "Nightly Newsflash" and co-host on "Meet the Media", walks in.]

Shuffles papers.

ETHERS: Welcome to VWTV Nightly Newsflash. Last week, we brought in some IRS, or Interal Reserach System, personnel, to speak with them about the developing story with computer crashes at Aeronautic and Space International Administration. The largest operating organization in space travel, ASIA was devastated by the computer crashes. Today we're speaking with Hester Crola, a representative and spokeswoman for the company that sells the operating system ASIA computers were working with, Ceiling XP. Welcome, Hester.

CROLA: Thank you, Bryant. We've done thorough tests of our operating system, Ceiling XP, which packages fine-tuned surveillance systems, high-speed operations, and automatic save programs embedded in all areas. We've also brought in some skilled technicians from such renowned companies like Gazillion.

ETHERS: For those of you who don't surf the internet on a regular basis, Gazillion is a highly popular search engine also sporting Gazillion Videos, Frazillion (a shopping area), and GBlogger. Anyways, back to the story. When will the investigations end?

CROLA: We don't want to set timetables, but we want a clear path for clear operations and we wish best of luck to ASIA.

ETHERS: Thanks, Hester. Hester Crola, representative and spokeswoman for Megasoft, creator of Ceiling XP.

CROLA: Thanks, Braynt. Good night.

ETHERS: An air of mystery still hangs over the ASIA computer breakdowns, and ASIA administrators are citing possible physical flaws in computers, the physical bodies of which are mainly manufactured by Natel. In a written statement, Natel "assures ASIA all computers are inspected and made for top standards," and "denies purposeful involvement in breakdowns." For more info on the ASIA breakdowns, go to our site at For our next story--how would you feel if a stranger replied to a Philippalist advert for a violin, saying that he'd like the violin-and he'll pay nine hundred grand? That--when we come back.

[Viole soap commercial.]

[Voledads provincial statement warning parents about new booster seat laws.]

[Tod-toys commercial.]

[Middle-school math commerical.]

[Rac sports shirts commercial.]

Theme music for Nightly Newflash comes back on.

Ethers shuffles papers.

ETHERS: Phillippalist, an increasingly popular website sporting lists of attic amusements, the occasional piece of furniture, the bed coverlet, vintage wine, even violins. From varieties like confectioner's darling "Honey-string Caramel" to the more serious Tiolan "Treiss" brand, one violin is special. We're talking with correspondent Ezekiel Baker to get the story on one big-bucks violin.

BAKER: It was a plain Elvernian day--the six-thirty shipments, the seven 'o clock, the newspapers delivered at ten o' clock sharp. Lisa Meyers, a single mother, is living out another day in the Elvernian apartment complex "Otto's Ivy." A working-class neighborhood, Otto's Ivy is plain; the concrete building is whitewashed. Balconies are luxurious, and the only adornment in the parking way is a fastidiously polished hybrid. Even this, Meyers says, doesn't belong to one the "apartners." It's the developer's car. Other than some pieces of furniture from dumps, garage sales, and bumped shipments, Room Number 55, Meyers' apartment number, is empty. Meyers works from her apartment; she can't afford daycare for her two kids. Meyers sells random items on Phillipalist, translates for international translating company Linguistics Line, does nights working at next-door factory Wells', and keeps track of money. One day while looking through a box left in the kitchen, Meyers finds an old violin. "I mean, I didn't think it was anything special," Meyers reflects. "It was a kind of dusty brown color, and there was no shoulder rest. It said "Citae" on the back." As it turns out, "Citae" is a now out-of-production violin, first produced in the seventeen hundreds. Meyers' violin was extremely rare--produced in the nineteen twenties, historian Robert Michel says it's amazing it stayed in such a good condition. Citae violins are renowned for extreme sound quality, and put up at prices up to a million dollars by collectors. Meyers is not a musician, so she put the violin up for sale on Phillippalist. "I didn't really think it would really bring in much money. I thought it was a fairly nice violin, and I polished it." The next day Meyers recieved a call from instruments collector Andre Vermont. "He said he'd pay nine hundred grand for it. I was amazed." Meyers immediately closed the deal. The nine hundred grand, put together with other savings, has allowed her to move out of the working-class neighborhood. "I'm really grateful to the violin," she says.
ETHERS: Thank you, Ezekiel. That's tonight's Nightly Newsflash. Thanks for listening. I'm Bryant Ethers. See you next week.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

[Typed up from journal]

We just went swimming. More off topic, here are my thoughts on Washington's education system:

Washington State needs higher standards. We are in the lower middle as standards go, meaning many of our students get an easy way out of learning.

We pay for technology yet we hardly ever use it. Some schools have plenty of desktop computers, etc., and yet there are no classes in Internet research skills, until maybe higher grades, by which time a lot of a kid's enthusiasm and flexibility is gone.

We should introduce history, art, and music to classes. Not just cutout art--learning shading, pastel, etc., from an artist, and learning art history. We should also have music history, not just singalongs.

Lastly, improve school food. The current cafeteria is an often unhygienic and dreaded place. Greasy pizza doesn't stimulate the brain as much as...whole wheat bread. Instead of French Fries, how about chickpeas?

JOURNAL [typed up]

Having sadly left this book to its own devices in the whitewashed bookshelf on the left side of my mother's office, I once again take gel pen in hand.

The world is faring oly mildly well. Oh yes, there are the occasional water balloon fights to lift our lethargic spirits, but other than fruit sorbets, blueberry pie, cookies and cream ice cream, and our guinea pigs (Sherlock and Minnie), it is, on the whole, unexciting. there is more al-Qaeda news on CNN. I do not mean to sound either unpatriotic or uninterested but I do admit I wish there was more of a nuance of news. From...Luxembourg, for example. Us United States people are so arrogant in what we report. As a resident of small town Redmond, I might also add most news channels--even sometimes local Seattle ones--do not condescend to even give us weather on their forecasts, much less check how we're doing.

It must be admitted Redmond does not provide very meritable stories. We seem to have uilt the media upon murder, fraud, and other "hard" news, and pleasant suburbia sacrifices fame because of it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Frequently Asked Question

A question I'm frequently asked about is where to get a publisher. Publishers are many and close between, but an exceptional one I've noticed lately is called LaunchPad, at It's a magazine devoted to starting kids off in creating writing and drawing. They're receiving contributions from kids six to twelve. I'd suggest LaunchPad to all kids.

A Summary of Our Life

I must admit, ninety-five is the highest heat I have suffered. As it happens, that was only a few weeks ago in Atlanta (where I appeared on CNN.) It was a program called "Young People Who Rock". We do not have a proper air conditioner anywhere, just a dusty fan in my mom's office that stirs up such a conflagration of noise that its disruption of the heat inferno is more of a disruption to us. Speaking of conflagrations, have you heard the havoc being wreaked by the merciless wildfires? There is one raging in Washington currently, although I don't think it's anywhere near us. Today our monotonous lifestyle grabbed hold of us yet again. We rise at promptly eight-something and proceed to the breakfast table, and this routine is repeated throughout the all-too-hot summer days. We went swimming today. I am able to jump off the diving board, hold my breath for about ten seconds, backfloat, and swim in the deep end.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Women in the Civil War (Class)

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The Civil War expanded women’s responsibilities within the traditional sphere of home and family. Women were forced to manage estates in husbands’ absences, sew bandages and clothes, and nurse soldiers. Even the whitest hands did not hesitate to write to revered friends, brothers, fathers, and cousins fighting in the battle. Women helped raise important funds for troops. Rising prices, invading soldiers, and food shortages did not daunt these women; so remember the ladies.
Many women managed—and protected—property in their husbands’ absences. Women often hid valuables and livestock from the all-too-eager hands of invading soldiers. Mrs. Burge, the wife of a plantation owner, wrote in her diary, “We were just rising from breakfast when Ben Glass rode up with the cry: ‘the Yankees are coming, Mrs. Burge, hide your mules!” Another quote from Mrs. Burge’s diary reads: “The report is that the Yankees have left Covington for Macon, headed by Stoneman, to release prisoners held there. They robbed every house of its provisions, sometimes taking every piece of meat, blankets, and wearing apparel”. Women such as Burge hid valuables, livestock, and even resting Confederate guests.
Women became farming and financial gurus, managing budgets and sometimes working alongside slaves in the fields. Despite the fact many women were “not cut out” for physical work, farming became a “necessary evil” for many. A distasteful chore became a patriotic duty. Financial wisdom became an essential part of surviving in a world where coffee beans could sell for seventy dollars per pound.
Even the belles of the ball did not shirk writing. One of the few activities considered “ladylike” before and during the Civil War, writing was not only a rest from the grueling activities of wartime, but a gossip page and a vehicle of emotions. Letters were a major part of every war-family’s life, sending and receiving. Louisa May Alcott portrayed this in Little Women, making “the letter from Father” (a “chaplain” in the army) a major part of the sisters’ lives. Many soldiers looked at writing letters as ways to get news. “It is with the utmost diffidence that I commence a letter to you so soon after forming your acquaintance without first having asked your permission. But Chum is in Page and I have no correspondent in Augusta to give me news from you.” Clinton Hatcher, the author of the letter, was later killed in battle. Letter-writing was a service to the soldiers, a way to share news of home and keep up morale.
Some women aided soldiers by becoming nurses. Many hospitals at the time of the Civil War were makeshift and unsanitary, making life an unlikely draw in many cases. Mary Ann Bickerdyke, Louisa May Alcott, Clara Barton, and Dorothea Dix were some of the most important nurses at the time of the Civil War. Nursing was not only limited to the battlefield. The following quote from the Staunton Spectator, a community newspaper in Virginia’s Augusta County, illustrates this. “We have been requested by the ladies of Staunton to meet this Tuesday evening at five o’ clock in the basement story of the Lutheran church, for the purpose of adopting ways and means to provide for the relief and comfort of the soldiers.” At home, bedsheets, pillowcases, and rags were mercilessly snipped and sewn for bandages and clothes for soldiers.
Raising money for soldiers was an important activity for women. Raising money for soldiers replaced donations that had once been given to temperance societies, charitable work, church bazaars, and other social events. The Republican Vindicator noted this about women raising money for the troops-“They immediately, in obedience to their instinct of fervent patriotism, resolve to raise all the money they can.”
The war made life anything but glorious. Prices could skyrocket overnight. Houses could be ransacked by soldiers, leaving occupants homeless and hungry. Trade routes and roads were often cut off by soldiers, making transporting goods difficult. Many doubted the stability of Confederate dollars; in the Union, the secretary of the treasury introduced paper money not backed by gold. Luxurious clothing was a doubtful idea. High-class women could be plunged into jobs they had almost no experience in. Neighbors could be kidnapped while girls sewed bandages in the assumed safety of home. Despite the troubles of Civil War life, women persisted and proved that they were anything but second-class citizens.