Saturday, April 1, 2017

Where's the Minecraft April Fools prank?

I've logged in at least three times today (April 1st), and so far:
* No new snapshots
* Nothing weird in the latest snapshot
* Game seems to be working completely normally
* I haven't been turned into a Villager

Maybe the prank is that there is no prank...?

It's a long shot. :(

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The following was inspired by Johnathan Smith's A Modest Proposal, and the general format follows the original. However, this is completely serious satire--I didn't write it just because I wanted to emulate Smith, I wrote it because I had something to say, as well.

In recent years, it has become abundantly clear that the planet is dying, due to deforestation, pollution, and the steady development of free land. Species have gone extinct, climate change is causing the seasons themselves to shift and contort, and the ever-growing brightness of our cities at night is making it difficult for all living creatures to function normally. And the root of these problems, of course, is humans: we build the factories, chop the trees, turn on the lights, etc. Therefore, I propose a simple solution to these problems—and, in fact, all of the problems of the human race: eliminate humanity.
Without humans, the planet would be able to recover. Life would be preserved—perhaps all life, as it is yet unknown whether there are other inhabited planets—and many species near extinction would have free reign to build up their numbers once more, no longer hunted by poachers or driven out of their lands. In time, enough plants would grow to clear the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, and any toxins we left behind would slowly decompose and return to their natural states. The weather would likewise sort itself out, and as all our buildings crumbled away, a natural paradise would take our place.
Getting rid of humans wouldn’t be too hard, either. If we stopped trying to prevent suicide and murder, and instead provided everyone with the means and rewarded those who eliminated some numbers, there would be a dramatic population drop. Further, we could bring back the death penalty in all those countries without it, and simply get rid of all our troublemakers. Rapists, as they would be contributing to an increase in population, would be first among these, and all charges of rape brought against anyone would be taken seriously and responded to appropriately. (For that matter, putting sexual assaulters on death row would be a good preventative measure to stop things before they begin.)
But what about the others? Not everyone is a criminal, and there surely wouldn’t be enough murderers in the world to eliminate everyone. Well, that is also easy to fix: as we spay and neuter pets, so we could spay and neuter humans. At their next visit to the doctor, people would undergo a simple surgery to prevent them from having children. New babies would also undergo this procedure, and the population would stop growing within a year or two. Then, it would rapidly start to shrink.
To ensure the elimination of humans with all due haste, illness and injury would no longer be treated. Jobs would also start to collapse, as grade by grade, teachers would no longer be needed, and those out of employment (if the world’s governments would be so kind as to stop sending benefits to the unemployed) would quickly starve or be killed by one of the murderers. The elderly are on their way out anyway, so even if they could support themselves financially without the government’s help, it wouldn’t be long before they dropped off. Many others, such as those in the fire service, would also no longer be needed—when fire can kill off so many, they would be a hindrance to the cause.
However, humanity would not disappear overnight. While we still lived, our destruction of the world around us would continue to increase. Therefore, it would be essential to shut down all the big businesses that were causing pollution and waste, so that the world could start to recover while we quietly stepped out of the way. This, of course, would result in even more unemployed people who would quickly drop off. And as for those who are perfectly self-sufficient, people could be employed to eliminate them. Farmers would be at the top of this list; as they produce food, they would be able to survive the purge unless they were specifically targeted.
Once most people have been eliminated, the murderers—presumably the last ones left—will turn on each other. Those who survive will either starve to death, die of disease, become injured, or simply live until they die of natural causes. At this point, it will hardly matter how—they will die eventually, and provided they have all been neutered or spayed, humanity will cease to exist before long.
My proposal will work for the following reasons:
First, people hate each other and themselves enough that, if everyone is given the means to kill (especially with weapons such as guns, which can be employed on impulse), they will do so quickly and willingly. If there is any guilt or sorrow over having killed, they will either commit suicide or harden themselves to those feelings and continue to murder, perhaps even finding joy in the act. Such systems to protect ourselves from uncomfortable emotions are built into us; they are human nature.
Secondly, when all of these measures are taken to collapse our society, the whole thing will quite literally crash and burn. I’m certain that there are other laws that could be repealed, such as “don’t text while driving” or “always wear a seatbelt” or “don’t go over the speed limit” that would quickly arise as people found more ways that humans die, and removed the preventative measures around them. All it would take is a few laws removed and the means to kill given to everyone, and then the human world would crumble into nothingness.
Thirdly, those who (for whatever reason) would oppose this proposal would contribute to it, as police violence would be rewarded and there are so many people who would love to be assassins that the leaders of those groups would not last long. Gathering people together to stand against the purge would give an excellent opportunity to try some mass-effect weapons, and if protests turned to riots, the results could wipe out cities in one fell blow.
Fourthly, all of humankind would benefit from this purge: nobody would have to solve a problem again, for nobody would have problems to solve. Everyone would get to express their characters fully, and in this state of emergency, they would be relieved of all burdens. For many, after expressing their long-hidden hatred or rage, they would finally welcome sweet oblivion, and it would all be for a good cause. For others, they would finally reconcile with any enemies, and reach out to shunned family, having a chance to become whole because of the terror surrounding. Many people would die happy, and those who didn’t would be free from their pain before long.
Fifthly, it is absolutely certain that the world would benefit from a lack of humanity. Nature would begin to restore itself with the first abandoned houses, as previously-trimmed lawns and hedges became living, growing sanctuaries for the smallest of creatures: the rodents, insects, and birds. This surplus of prey would cause the predators’ numbers to grow, and a cycle of hunting and evolving through natural selection would be set in place. Even in the first deaths, even as it began, the Earth would begin claiming her rightful place.
Let no one come to me, saying that this purge would be barbaric or horrific. Let no one argue that humans can change and restore the planet, or that overpopulation could be cured through other measures. Let no one say that energy is becoming cleaner, when energy produced is fueling a different, growing kind of pollution: that of light. Let no one speak of the misery and horror that people would undergo, for as it stands, so few people care about that which is already occurring. Let no one argue that we only each have one life, or that love can still win over hatred, or that some species are beginning to recover.
Let no one come to me saying that humans can improve, when throughout history, we have only gotten worse. When America’s latest presidential election showed just how hateful the country is, when people are already engaged in bloody, miserable wars, when there are already people starving and dying, when we could so easily wipe ourselves out through nuclear war, let no one say that this proposal would not be an easier, kinder, more empathetic way of eliminating the most selfish, uncaring, ignorant, egotistical, hateful, destructive, parasitic, dangerous species on the planet.
It is not too late. The Earth can still make a full (or nearly full) recovery, but it cannot do so with us here. We act too slowly to eliminate the greed that causes a farmer to use pesticides or a factory to burn fossil fuels—it will be too late by the time we do, too late for the bees and the air. Only radical, fast-acting change will solve this problem, and given the violent nature of humankind, if this proposal is implemented even partially (which it likely will be regardless of whether anyone reads this, at least in America, considering who’s president), humanity will collapse anyway. This purge would be fast and cause as little destruction as possible to the rest of the planet.
Do not worry that I do this for an excuse to kill people. I’m sure that I would be among the first to die, if this was implemented.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Leaves

When a leaf falls, it usually means nothing. Nothing significant, that is. It means that the stem couldn’t withstand the strength of the wind, or that the time has come for the tree to drop all its leaves in preparation for winter, or that the tree itself is dying and the dead leaf simply fell. All trees lose leaves—I’d imagine it’s like losing hair (though I’m not a tree, so I can’t say for sure). The leaf grows, it serves its purpose providing the tree with food, and when it dies or weakens (for whatever reason), it falls. Occasionally, it might be ripped off in a particularly brutal storm, or be picked or trimmed—quite by chance—by some passerby or a human deciding to take care of the tree by hacking off a few of its limbs.
I’ve watched hundreds, probably thousands of leaves fall. It’s a part of daily life to see a leaf on the ground, especially in autumn or winter. When the wind blows through and shakes the red-golden branches of a forest in fall, a fiery rain falls, creating a truly irreplaceable source of beauty and inspiration. Sometimes the wind picks up a few on the ground and whirls them around in a miniature tornado that would be otherwise invisible. It’s a beautiful dance, and a fact of life. Leaves fall.
Imagine, however, what this must be like from the perspective of a leaf. Once it sprouts, it spends its whole life gathering the energy from sunlight and photosynthesizing, creating food for the tree. In return, the rest of the tree feeds it the nutrients it needs to continue growing and gathering food, creating a symbiotic cycle of growth. It is constantly tossed about on the wind, clinging to its branch by a small green stem. Clouds and taller trees make it hard to reach the sun, and though it needs water to survive, the rain pelts it and knocks it about. It survives, but its job is hard. Caterpillars, aphids, and other insects may decide to knaw holes in it for food, and it may not be provided with the natural defenses to keep them away. At any time, for no reason, something may pluck it off its branch or snap its twig. If it is lucky, and survives all this intact, fall will come. Its chlorophyll will drain, leaving a beautiful color but no means to gather food, and it will weaken until it simply—falls.
Let me tell you another story. A small human baby is born. It—or, I suppose I should say, they—grow, and start gathering knowledge and building character. That knowledge is shared with everyone they know, and their character becomes apparent as it develops. Their mind and soul feed on the wealth of information available for them to learn, and they pass that food back to their family, friends, teachers, and classmates—everyone they know. In return, they are given more, as others reciprocate (whether they intend to or not—actions and reactions can be as telling as words). But other things happen. Problems arise—learning disabilities, social awkwardness, physical differences from others, distraction, difficulty with cooperation, unusual ways of thinking (none of these without their merits, of course)—that create obstacles in the exchange of creativity, knowledge, and understanding. The child has trouble tapping into that wealth of secrets they had discovered was waiting for them when they were born. As they grow, they struggle more and more to find it. They get older, get a job, maybe start their own life, and the exchange of soul food stays sparse, though they find ways to try and reach it still through friends and family.
But through it all, there are so many external factors acting on them that they find it hard to survive. Politics, the weather, accidents, their boss (with a life of their own, and a similar amount of troubles affecting their decisions)—all of these will batter and challenge the person, knowing at their sense of self, pulling them away from the people they love, seizing opportunities first, and making it very hard sometimes for the person to stay alive. If they manage it, though, they will be more or less happy at the end of their life, and their grasp will simply fail, and they slip away into the unknown. And all the people around them experience the same things, the same troubles, often the same ending. Like leaves on a tree and trees in a forest, they’re all in it together.
When a leaf falls, it usually means nothing. Nothing significant, that is. Perhaps a storm wiped it out, perhaps parasites drained it, perhaps someone meaning to keep the tree healthy clipped it away. It often wasn’t the leaf’s fault at all—sometimes things just happen, for no discernible reason, and sometimes they end in death. Sometimes the tree was crowded out by other plants. But let me tell you this: when a parasite finishes with one tree, it moves on to another. When a storm blows through, everyone is hit, no matter whose fault it was, or how strong the trees are. When a butterfly flaps its wings, a hurricane is born across the world. When big trees crowd out the little ones, they start fighting with each other for space, and wind up so entangled that they can’t get free or breathe. When autumn comes and the leaves fall, none are left green and thriving.
We have more influence over the random and unchangeable than we think. I’d suggest we start watching the patterns of the falling leaves.

"And in our silent yearning,
We scarcely hear the call
Our world slowly burning,
Like ashen leaves, we fall."
--me

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Strengths of Slytherin

Slytherins are evil. That is a fact of life to anyone who has read Harry Potter, and thus it can be incredibly disappointing when you take the Sorting quiz on Pottermore and discover that your House colors are green and silver. It can even cause you to go through a crisis as you try to figure out where you went wrong and why would this happen to me? After all, "There's not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin." But let us think for a moment about what this really means...

The first things we hear about Slytherin in the series are negative. Voldemort having been one, Draco Malfoy aiming to end up there, and of course, Hagrid's ominous words. But no House is perfect, and Hagrid was a Gryffindor in his time, who was seriously and personally wronged by a Slytherin. It makes sense that he would view them as universally evil. However, when you step back and listen to the Sorting Hat from an unbiased perspective, it doesn't sound all that bad.
"Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means 
To achieve their ends" (Rowling 118).
There is no doubt that Salazar Slytherin was a nasty character, but that does not have to remain true for his House, centuries later. The traits that the Sorting Hat lists are cunning and resourcefulness, as well as determination. Those don't sound too bad, do they? It also implies that Slytherins keep the friends they make, and are very close to them. My real friendships have been close and long-lasting. It is not easy to drive Slytherins apart.

I can see why Slytherins have been the most likely to turn to evil. Often, their "ends" have been things that most humans long for, but are our worst desires: power and money, perhaps fame. But for a Slytherin whose goals in life are of a better, more moral nature, life is likely to go in a very good direction. Professor Slughorn's goals were selfish, but he led a comfortable life and helped many good witches and wizards on the way to fame and fortune. And let us not forget Severus Snape, who saved the world out of his love. Nothing could deter him from the job he had to do.

So what is it to be a Slytherin Serpent? Well, I think the best way to explain this is in an example of a situation that young Mr. Potter faced early in his days at Hogwarts: an enemy -- it does not matter who -- challenging one to a wizard duel.
"I'd take you anytime on my own," said Malfoy. "Tonight, if you want. Wizard's duel. Wands only -- no contact" (Rowling 153).
I will explain what I think a student from each House would do here, based on the general qualities and qualifications for that House.

A Gryffindor, as we know, will accept the challenge, despite the danger it poses. Their courage and honor will not allow them to back down, even if they know nothing about magic or dueling. To refuse the challenge is to admit defeat, not just in the duel, but in the constant battle waged against the challenger.

A Hufflepuff will see no shame in refusing to fight. They are loyal to their House and to Hogwarts, and don't want to break any school rules. They especially don't want to lose House points for something as stupid as dueling another student over a petty disagreement, and in fact will find it honorable to refuse, because they are putting their House's needs above their own.

A Ravenclaw will think carefully about the challenge. They will likely know what a wizard's duel is, and have at least some idea of how to go about doing it. They will also be fully aware that a midnight duel is against Hogwarts rules, which they won't want to break. Depending on the individual, they will accept the challenge, not get caught, and win, or they won't care enough about such petty things as dueling ability when they have studying and homework to do. Maybe they'll propose another kind of contest, such as a chess game or a competition in Transfiguration (e.g. whoever can turn their plate into a teapot with the most success wins).

A Slytherin will weigh their options. They won't want to get into trouble and risk losing House points or marring their reputation. They will know their strengths and weaknesses, and therefore be aware of weather or not they could pull off something like this. In the likely event that they can't, being a first-year and all, they'll find some other way of thwarting their opponent. Either they'll offer a different challenge outright, refuse with a cutting comeback, or agree and lay a trap for their challenger. What Mr. Malfoy did was very effective, and though it didn't work, it cost him nothing in the end. All he had to do was tip off Filch that someone might be sneaking around the trophy room at midnight, and sit back as Harry Potter almost got caught. It really was very clever, and had Malfoy not been already established as an antagonist, we (the readers) might have truly appreciated it.

Being a Slytherin is not about being evil. It does not mean that you are immoral, or have selfish goals, or are prejudiced. It means that you are able to achieve what goals you set, and that you're willing to start again from a different angle when something goes wrong. It means that you aren't bound by silly rules about honor when you know that you can't win on strength or skill alone. It means that you can ask for help when you need it, and know when it's time to back down for a moment and think of something more effective. It means that you're willing to do what you must to get what you need, or to do what has to be done. Whether you take ethics into account is entirely up to you -- but I'm sure I'm not the only Slytherin who realizes that to harm others is to harm yourself, and that soul-ripping is definitely real and Dumbledore was right.

I am a Slytherin, because I think outside the box. I know where I want to go in life, and I work hard to get there. When something happens that deters me momentarily, I find a way to work around it or use it to get to a better place than before. I know how and when to ask for help, and it doesn't hurt my pride to do so. I am an extremely moral and ethical person, and I try my best not to be hateful towards anyone or anything. I can also see the impracticality of charging head-on against someone like Voldemort or a Death Eater. If I were at Hogwarts during the year when Snape and the Carrows were in charge, I too would have refused to do the evil things required of students, but my rebellion would have been quieter.

I do not discredit the hope that people like Neville were able to give with their outright resistance, but I would have preferred to offer hope without getting myself hurt or killed. In fact, it's likely that I would have started anonymously putting out pieces of writing that spoke against what was going on, and how the hate that was being spread was as destructive to the haters as the hated. I'd have made it a priority in the magical world to learn healing arts, and I'd therefore be able to help those who got hurt at the hands of the Carrows both emotionally and physically. I'd offer support of a quieter kind.

I probably would have wound up hiding with the rest of the DA eventually, because I would be tracked down at some point. Of course I'd be part of Dumbledore's Army. I respect Dumbledore very much, and being a Slytherin doesn't change that.

So don't despair if you're a Serpent. It doesn't mean you have to be evil, or are any worse of a person. You're in good company, if Severus Snape is anything to go by...







Rowling, J. K., and Mary GrandPré. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Someday, when I am much older than I am now, I will be watching Harry Potter. Whatever movie it is, from the Philosopher's Stone to the Deathly Hallows, my eyes will be glazed with tears, as they always are when I see, hear, or read it. And I will pull out my phone and call whomever is closest to me to say,

"I am so jealous of those kids. I wish I could go to Hogwarts too, and meet those people--the characters and actors alike." And they will reply,

"Really? You're still jealous? I got over that long ago. Grow up!" To which I will say,

"I don't have a wand, so I can't perform a Patronus charm for you. But I can assure you...

"After all this time?

"Always."

And then I will hang up as fast as I can before breaking down into hysterics.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ok, Silver Quill. Since I don’t have a YouTube account, I can’t post this in the “comments” section, but I’m sure as heck gonna post it here.
Once again, an argument against Princess Luna has been brought to my attention. And once again, I have a refuting argument ready. And no, I did not just come up with this now. This is what I’ve thought for a long time.
The argument has been made that Luna is overrated. I have little doubt that this is true. The fandom goes crazy over her, much too crazy. The argument that I would like to fight is against something that Silver Quill’s collaboration partner said: that Luna is so loved by the fandom because people make her into a faultless, pure, sympathetic character. Again, this is probably true for the most part… knowing the fandom, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is almost completely true. In fact, I’m not going to try and refute this argument at all, just explain my perspective on the subject.
I am a Luna fan. Anyone who reads this blog will be fully aware of this fact. But the reason I love her is not that she is a sympathetic character.
Princess Luna made a mistake, a really big mistake. She got angry and jealous over circumstances that are unclear in the show. It could have been that she was just acting like a teenager and went into a “nobody loves me, everybody hates me; I guess I’ll go eat worms” phase, except that instead of eating worms, she blew up and became Nightmare Moon. It could also have been that she was truly and honestly neglected and shunned. I prefer to think that this was the case, because it would have justified her actions at least a little bit.
Whatever the circumstances preceding her banishment, Luna did not react in a reasonable manner. She should have tried to talk to Celestia, and explain how she was feeling. This alone could have been enough to fix the problem completely, but in the case that it would not have been, there are still more things she could have tried. She might have talked to her friends and advisors, and spent more time amongst her subjects. She could have made special displays of shooting stars, or made more of a show out of the moonrise that would have been noticed more by her subjects. If all else failed, she could have found something else to do that would channel her energy, not through anger, but through passion.
But she didn’t do any of these things, at least not to our knowledge. The course of action she took was as destructive to herself as it was to Celestia, and it was certainly destructive to Equestria. She wound up banished to the moon, which deprived Equestria of a princess, and Celestia of a sister—and that’s not even to mention the damage she did to the Castle of the Two Sisters and whoever might have been in it at the time!
This is not to say that I place all of the blame on Luna’s shoulders. Celestia reacted to the situation very badly; it did not need to be like this. She was also undoubtedly a cause of Luna’s feelings and actions, and either did not notice her sister’s distress or did not take action to alleviate it. It is entirely possible that Luna hid her pain well enough that Celestia really couldn’t have noticed, of course, but I find this unlikely. Celestia could have consoled her sister, or taken steps to make sure she knew how much she was loved. On the off chance that Celestia really didn’t care, that Luna truly was neglected and had no opportunity to reach out, and that Nightmare Moon was the only option, I say, what a piece of sh- um… bad writing.
“The elder sister tried to reason with her.” This is the phoniest line in the first two episodes. Celestia did not try to reason with Luna, she commanded her to lower the moon. At this point, Luna wasn’t going to come up with a good solution on her own. To fix this problem, Celestia would have to try and talk to Luna. She would apologize for any harm that had been done on her behalf, and ask Luna kindly if she wanted to explain what she felt. She might even walk up to Nightmare Moon and give her a hug, reminding her that she was there for her sister. Luna would probably do what Starlight Glimmer did, and explain her feelings in a teary, rage-filled speech that would suffice to get all her emotions out. Then, the two of them could take action to fix the problem. Luna would go into counseling and find some friends, and they might introduce some new practices like astronomy and stargazing into Equestria. Maybe she could teach young ponies about how she raised the moon and what it took to create the night. It would take some time, but over the course of a few months (or years), she would be back to normal. Right? . . . Right?
Nope! Instead, that fool of a sun princess took the Elements of Harmony, i.e. Deus Ex Machina, and simply put Nightmare Moon away to be dealt with in a thousand years. “Oh, you’re incredibly hurt by being neglected, and have finally risen up on a wave of your darkest emotions to take action against me? I’ll write that down and stick it in my filing cabinet. I’m sure I’ll get around to it sometime in the next millennium, after I deal with the Crystal Empire. Ta-ta!”
So you see, I hold both Luna and Celestia responsible for the Nightmare Moon incident. As a result, I respect both of their characters equally in this particular circumstance. To me, Luna is not the innocent victim of her sister’s cruelty. Nor was she as evil as the show would have led us to believe. Luna is a pony who made a mistake. This mistake had justification, but it was still wrong. She felt the consequences of her actions, and as a result has grown as a person. Celestia is a pony who made a mistake. She, too, felt the consequences of her actions. I don’t know if she has since seen that there might have been another way, but given Discord’s reformation, she might now be more open to the possibility.

Edit: This is really directed at Voice of Reason, who stated the opinion that I am arguing against. Silver Quill and Grand Pause (I think that's the name?) made a very convincing argument in Silver's supplement video that states my opinion pretty well. Also, my story To Heal a Broken Heart on FimFiction says everything I've said here much better. Go read that instead.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

There's a semi- hippopotamus world somewhere between Nebraska and tomorrow.