My Letter to Mark Watney

An open letter to Mark Watney
“I am definitely going to die up here … if I have to listen to any more god-awful disco music.” – Matt Damon on playing Mark Watney in The Martian.

 

Dear Mark Watney,

You were stranded on Mars after your friends left thinking you were dead and woke up with a metal pole in your stomach. Ouch. With how far luck goes, you got a pretty good deal, apart from you know, being left on Mars with a metal stick in your stomach. At least you’re alive! You had to perform surgery on yourself, while conscious, with only a staple gun to stop the bleeding. I bet you weren’t thinking you were lucky then.

You weren’t only stranded, you were stuck there until the next Ares space mission landed which was a very long time away. So you started thinking of how to grow food on Mars. Thank God for botany! And human waste! And science! You grew potatoes out of your own poop and Mars’ sand and gave them water by extracting the hydrogen from the hydrazine in rocket fuel. You do blow yourself up at first though. But you then succeed in growing crops and in turn colonize Mars! A round of applause for Mark Watney everybody! Too bad you blow all your crops up later. What’s with you and blowing stuff up? You’re not Jason Bourne!

You are super smart though. You remembered that NASA had sent a probe up to Mars in 1997. You bring it back and fix it. Without help on Earth though, you would’ve never been able to reach NASA. Luckily, Venkat Kapoor, the director of the Mars missions, figured out what you were trying to get and rushed to the company it was made in to see if they could establish a signal. You soon had communication with Earth but couldn’t have detailed conversations with them. Luckily, you found a chart that told you how to use numbers as letters (a hexadecimal language chart). You soon started talking about how to get back to earth and what you needed to do to survive. I would also consider you being very lucky when you found that one of your crew mates had video games on his laptop. As you can see, there’s a recurring pattern here of luck. You were very unlucky though to be stuck with disco music. I would’ve put it under the rocket when you left Mars.

That was one crazy escape plan NASA came up with. Slingshot the Hermes around Earth to get back to Mars, you had to get rid of the windows, chairs, and basically everything else on your rocket and had to use a tarp instead of a sealed top when you blasted up into orbit, your friends then had to improvise and blew up part of the Hermes (again with the explosions!), and catch you in space. That wouldn’t work so you, Mark Watney the space pirate, had to cut open your spacesuit and fly like Iron Man to your commander. At least now you have a great story to tell your kids, your students, and everybody else. Imagine a student bragging to his friends “I went on a world tour!” You’d just come up and say “I went to Mars, colonized it, and got to fly like Iron Man in space. And you’re bragging about a world tour?” That smug look couldn’t be wiped off your face.

Thanks for being a great source of entertainment and excitement for me and people all around the globe!

Picture from buzzhub.wordpress.com

Pacific Rim Uprising

This March, I, like many people, went to watch Pacific Rim Uprising. Pacific Rim Uprising is the sequel to Pacific Rim, a movie where the United Nations decided to build giant robots to fight monsters that came from the Anteverse and were created by dangerous beings who wanted to take over the earth. The war lasted from 2014 – 2035. In the end, humans prevailed and lived ten years in peace. Then, a brainwashed scientist brings back the Kaiju by using robots that were going to help the Pan Pacific defense Corps. He hacks them using tech and Kaiju parts and manages to bring 3 Kaiju along. The Pacific Rim defense Corps’ robots are mostly destroyed due to an attack by the scientist and all hope seems lost. That’s until another scientist’s idea, the determination of the Pacific Rim personel, and the urgency of the situation allow them to rebuild 4 jaegers and meet the 3 Kaiju in a final battle in Japan.

My favorite scenes were the final fight, the Jaeger meteriod, and watching scrapper run from November Ajax (big blue robot from beginning). The final fight was awesome with all the Jaegers showing off their weapons and skills by almost taking down the super Kaiju. It’s kind of sad that one guy died after being thrown through several buildings, a Jaeger got ripped in half, and the other had it’s limbs ripped off. Watching the Jaeger meteriod was awesome because it’s a bleeping robot flying down super fast, arms extended, with a purpose that is skewering a giant monster. Imagine if the monster’s kinetic shield absorbed the impact, that would’ve been funny but sad because they’d probably have to nuke the place. It’s comical just watching scrapper running from the colossal giant that is November Ajax. It’s like a toddler running from it’s parents or babysitter. They’re running, they’re running, and they’re being stopped by a huge foot.

I really wish they hadn’t killed Titan Redeemer (the other robot with a wreaking ball as a hand). I really would have liked to see it help in the battle between the super Kaiju and the 4 main jaegers. With it’s knuckle rockets, wreaking ball, and guns. It would’ve been cool to see it and Bracer Phoenix slamming the Kaiju with their wreaking balls at the same time from each side. All you would hear would be a roar of pain and a squelching noise. Speaking of the super Kaiju battle, why did they go one at a time? Have they seen any action movies before? You always fight at the same time! Just surround the dang thing and kick it’s butt. It’s not that hard when you have 4 incredibly advanced colossal robots with guns, missiles, and other weapons the sizes of busses! But NOOOO, they just had to go one at a time and get their butts kicked.

My favorite robots were probably Gipsy Avenger (right picture) and Bracer Phoenix (left robot). They both had awesome designs, their weapons were O.P, and were in some of my favorite scenes. Gipsy Avenger had the energy blades, the gravity sling/energy blaster, the elbow rocket, and I’m pretty sure it had rockets, cause, what robot doesn’t have rockets? Bracer Phoenix had machine guns in it’s torso, a HUGE wreaking ball (with spikes, there just needs to be spikes), and rockets.

                                      

(Picture by susurrosdesdelaoscuridad.com)             (Picture from Pacificrimwiki)

 

 

If you want to learn more, click here.

 

My Trip to Houston

This spring break, my family plus my grandparents and I went to Houston. We all piled into a SUV and made the long drove there. The car ride was soooooo boring! Three hours in a car, with a sister you constantly fight with, plus motion sickness, with no music? It was TORTURE! Along the way, I found out we had relatives in Houston. They owned a donut shop which we gladly took advantage of and received many free donuts and kolaches. I don’t know how they are related to me specifically, but it is through my grandfather’s side of the family.  For ease, I refer to them as my cousin, my cousin’s wife, and their son, Brady. Brady is a shy, yet very energetic boy. He, Chloe, and I played tag with him in his parents’ donut shop. We also had races and chased him around. He’s pretty fast and knows it. On the first day we had dinner with Brady and his family. We all went to a Chinese restaurant and had a huge feast that included Peking duck.

I think my favorite part of the trip was going to the Johnson Space Center. It was a new experience. I’ve been all over Asia and have seen a lot of wildlife, music, culture, cuisine, and art so going to something like an aquarium, a zoo, or a beach isn’t very exciting. When I was at the Space Center, I saw a huge rocket, models of things in space, a show about the everyday life of an astronaut, and read bout the astronauts who landed on the moon. I had a lot of fun, but sadly didn’t get to see everything there. I hope I go again.

 

Apart from the Space Center, my family and I went to the Houston Zoo. I got to see lions, panthers, other cats, my monkey cousins from all over the world, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and all the other animals you would see in a zoo. I’ve been to a lot of zoos but this one was really nice. It was clean, had nice habitats for the animals, and had displays telling where the animal lives, its name, and how threatened it was. My favorite animal was probably the siamang monkey. It wasn’t that the siamang monkey was better than the other animals but when I was watching, a kid threw a chip at the monkey and the siamang caught it and ate it. Then it asked for more by reaching its hand through the fence of its enclosure. Another monkey I liked was the De Brazzas monkey. It has a white beard which led to me calling it the “wise man monkey” and my sister calling it the “bearded monkey.” I tried to get one of them to stroke their beard by pretending to do it myself. It didn’t work.

(Pic collage of photos taken by myself and my parents)

(Picture from Houstonzoo.org)

 

Why “Just Cause 3” is a Great Game

 

(Just Cause 3 picture by Playstation)            (Just Cause 3 by crohasit.com)

Just Cause 3 is about a civil war between the rebels and the dictator of Medici.  Medici is a fictional Mediterranean island that Just Cause 3 is set in and the main character, Rico Rodriguez’s home. In the campaign, you liberate towns, destroy vehicles, and defeat mini bosses until you fight the dictator himself.

One of the things I enjoy about Just Cause 3 is that it is an open world game, meaning you can roam the islands, towns, and everywhere else without having to complete objectives. I also like how many vehicles you can find just roaming the islands. Some of the vehicles that can be found are attack helicopters, military vehicles, a F1 racing car, two other sports cars, jets, tanks, etc.

Some of my favorite things to do are raiding military citadels, hijacking cars, planes, tanks, and helicopters, and wing suit flying from high places.

Military citadels are the hardest places to raid because of the extra defenses that protect the base. There are Bavarium nukes, air strikes, and EMP cannons to name a few. When you raid citadels, the only way to cut off or shut down the extra defenses is to control the entire region or province. I found that out when I got nuked on my own base and died which put me on a loading page with text that explained what I had to do to shut off the nukes. It is kind of frustrating because it takes a lot of hard work to take down citadels. The most challenging citadel to cease is Falco Maxime: Centcom because often times I would die as soon as I was within range of the bavarium nukes. It took me over fifty attempts to take the citadel down and just when I thought I was safe, I got nuked exploring the base. Every time you raid a citadel, you are given either a weapon or military vehicle for your drop list. That’s one of my biggest reasons for raiding citadels.

Hijacking cars is easy, planes are hard to find and if they’re airborne it’s hard to hijack them, tanks are easy to hijack unless the person riding the tank has backup because they don’t hesitate to fire on each other, and helicopters are relatively easy to hijack. I usually choose to hijack a helicopter to get to places then a tank to destroy those places.

Wing suit flying is super fun. If you don’t have a vehicle, flying is the fastest way to get around. It’s also the best way to evade bullets. If you’re not freeing a town or evading the military, flying around and sight seeing is something to do. Just Cause 3 is very realistic and has beautiful landscapes.

I don’t hate anything about this game other than how difficult it is to take down military bases or citadels. Just Cause 3 is fun to play, it’s very realistic, has wonderful graphics, and it’s an open world game.

Nintendo Super NES Classic Edition

This Christmas I got a Nintendo Super NES Classic. My mom told me that the console was highly sought after because of the nostalgia it brought to many gamers. Also, for the price point of $80 MSRP (often sold much higher), it was considered a great value with two remote controls and twenty-one pre-loaded retro games from the 90’s.  Some of the classic games are Super Mario World, Kirby, Zelda, and Super Mario Kart.

I wasn’t sure if I would like these older games. I initially thought it would be better if I just got another Xbox One game since I am more likely to play that.  However, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed playing it with my sister.

It was pretty intuitive for me.  Video game controllers haven’t changed that much except that the new ones are wireless.  The games like Super Mario World have evolved in graphics and content, but the end game is still the same – defeat Bowser and save the Princess.  I have played several Mario games on both the Wii and Nintendo DS.  I also liked that it was fun without being over challenging.   Whereas, the games nowadays gives you the setting options of easy, medium, and hard.

I haven’t played all the games yet, but so far my favorite games are Super Mario World and Kirby Super Star. I like Super Mario World because of the pixel design and the feeling of playing an old game. Some of the reasons I like Kirby Super Star is because it’s fun to play, I can spawn a helper, it can be a two-player game, and it’s easy enough to enjoy rather than getting frustrated by repeatedly dying. It also reminds me of when I lived in Washington state because I used to play Kirby Super Star on my old Nintendo DS.

Nintendo released another console before the Super NES Classic. The first console, the SNES Classic, was released in limited supply back in 2016 for a short period of time. Nintendo hadn’t anticipated the high demand for the old 8-bit games so they didn’t make enough, which made it hard to find. Due to this, they made the Super NES Classic to keep up the demand and are also putting the SNES Classic back into production in 2018. The Nintendo Super NES Classic Edition was released on September 29, 2017.

Even though I liked the Super NES Classic, I still find new games more appealing than the classics.  There have been great and vast improvements in video games. The graphics, sound effects, design, and settings are so much better today. Today graphics are way more impressive and realistic, players can battle each other using the internet, and game designs are much more aesthetically appealing.

 

 

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Movie Review

CAUTION:SPOILER ALERT!!!

(Jumanji picture from vanyaland.com)

During the winter break, my family and I watched Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. None of us have ever read the book or watched the original movie so we didn’t know what Jumanji was about. The only reason we decided to see it was because Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), Kevin Hart, and Jack Black were in it.

Jumanji is about four high schoolers that are trapped inside a video game and have to complete it to return to the outside world. They found this game while cleaning their school’s basement during detention. While Spencer and Martha take out the staples of newspapers and Bethany looks at her phone, Fridge finds a game console and a Jumanji game card. Choosing to play video games rather than taking out staples, Spencer (a teenage Dwayne Johnson) selects Dr. Smolder Bravestone, Fridge (teenage Kevin Hart) selects Moose Finbar, Bethany (teenage Jack Black) selects Professor Shelly Oberon, and Martha selects Ruby Roundhouse.

Upon selection of the characters, they are all transported into the game.  However, after being transported into the game, each person finds themselves physically transformed.  Spencer, who was a scrawny nerd, is now big and buff with the most physical advantages and no weaknesses.  He possesses speed, strength, and stamina. Fridge, who was a buff and strong football player, is now small and slow.  His weaknesses are a lack of strength, not being able to run fast, and cake.  He is a zoologist and a weapons valet, who carries a backpack.  Bethany, a pretty and popular girl who is addicted to social media, is now an overweight middle-aged man whose strength is cartography.  Unfortunately, because she is now an overweight man, she lacks endurance.  Martha, the nerdy but defiant redhead, is now a master of mixed martial arts and dance fighting.  Her weakness is poison.

Spencer and his friends learn from a NPC (Non Player Character, describing those who are permanent characters in the video game) that Jumanji had been cursed by Van Pelt, a greedy and ambitious villain. In his greed, Van Pelt stole the emerald eye of the panther, a mountainous statue carved from stone overlooking all of Jumanji, which would enable him to control wildlife, but inadvertently causing Jumanji to be cursed. In order for the four teenagers to exit the video game, they must return the eye of the panther to its rightful place and say the word “Jumanji” in order to lift the curse.  The challenge is that each player only has three lives and by the end of the movie, all ultimately end up using two lives.

After a chase scene by men driving mortocycles with guns and missile launchers, they regroup and head to where they think the bazaar is to complete their next task. Once they arrive, they look around to find the missing piece of the map. A NPC brings them to the place where the last piece of the map is located. In the middle of the room is a closed basket. They open it and learn that a Black Mamba snake is in there, guarding the last piece of the map. Thinking it’s a staring contest, Bethany attempts to stare it down which backfires and almost kills Martha. Fridge defangs the snake and they find the last piece of the map which is a stone elephant and an inscription indicating to climb when an elephant is seen. After they exit the room, they are confronted by Van Pelt’s soldiers who take a beating by the hands of Spencer who, unfortunately for the soldiers, likes to play Street Fighter.

They then meet Alex, a person who was sucked into the game decades before them who helps them escape and get to his secure home. After a few too many margaritas for Fridge and convincing Alex to help them, they make it to the next level where they have to fly to a checkpoint. All of them almost die when something breaks in their helicopter. Luckily, Spencer fixes it and then they begin to head to the checkpoint until Fridge says he thinks he dropped the eye. After circling back to retrieve the eye, Fridge loses one of his 3 lives.  They are able to make it to the checkpoint and then find the path to the Panther. They see an elephant statue and think that Spencer needs to climb. Instead, he loses a life when falling out of a tree and getting mauled by a jaguar. Not trying to repeat the mistake, Fridge comes up with a plan to get to the panther using a football strategy.

After another awesome fight scene, Spencer places the eye back into the statue and yells “Jumanji!” He, Bethany, Fridge, and Martha end up back in their world and crush Jumanji and the console.

I liked how the actors portrayed their characters (especially Jack Black), the funny dialogue, and the fight scenes. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black’s reactions to their transformations were all hilarious when they landed in Jumanji.  Dwayne Johnson (nerdy Spencer) poking his huge muscles in awe and saying “Where’s my hair?” Kevin Hart (big and strong Fridge) patting himself saying “Where’s the rest of me?!”  Jack Black (self-absorbed girl, Bethany), screaming, “No! I’m an overweight middle aged man.” I think that Jack Black was the best at playing the character of a sixteen year old girl – with the hair flips and acting like a valley girl. My dad thought that Jack Black played the role of a sixteen year old girl a little too well.

A favorite scene is when Kevin Hart’s character (Moose Finbar) accidentally eats poundcake and explodes. It is funny and unexpected when you first watch it.

Kevin Hart: What is this?

Food Vendor: Poundcake.

Ruby Roundhouse: Cake?! Isn’t that your weakness?

Kevin Hart: Is something happening to me? Why am I shaking?

Ruby Roundhouse: (Shakes head)

Kevin Hart: Am I still Black?

Ruby Roundhouse: Yes.

Kevin Hart: Ok, we’re fine, everything’s fine, it’s all good. (BOOM – he blows up)

The movie was well presented and I don’t believe any changes were needed to improve it.

Similar to Thor: Ragnarok, I recommend seeing Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle if you can still catch it in theaters.

 

Thor: Ragnarok, Movie Review

CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT!!!

“Ah-ah, ah! Ah-ah,ah!  We come from the land of the ice and snow.  From the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow.  The hammer of the gods…”  Those are some of the lyrics to Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin.  This 70’s punk-rock song is interspersed throughout the movie.

The third installment of the Thor franchise did not disappoint.  As a matter of fact, it was not only the best of the three movies, but also the best Marvel movie I’ve ever seen. The graphics, costume design, setting, and the humor made this a great movie.

The story begins with Thor, rapped in chains talking to the evil god, Surtur. Surtur reminds Thor the prophecy of Ragnarok, the end of everything.  Thor vows that will never happen.  After putting on a satisfactory show of defeating the god and slaying a monstrous dragon, he then flies to the palace where Loki, disguised as his father, Odin, is watching a re-enactment of Loki sacrificing himself in the second installment of the Thor series, Thor: The Dark World. This Odin is fat and happy, surrounded by women who are feeding him grapes.

Thor found out that Loki had been posing as Odin when he fought Surtur.  Surtur told Thor that Odin had not been on Asgard for quite some time.  Thor then demands that Loki tell him where he left Odin. The next scene is of Thor and Loki in New York City wearing suits, staring at a demolished old folks’ home and with Loki saying “I swear I left him here” then Thor asking, “Did you leave him here or inside the demolished building?” A hole then opens up and swallows Loki leaving Thor standing there confused. Doctor Strange then makes an appearance telling Thor that he and his brother need to leave. Thor then makes a deal with Strange saying that he will return to Asgard only after he sees his father. Strange obliges and opens two holes, one that Loki comes out of complaining, “I’ve been falling for thirty minutes!” And one that leads to Odin’s location.

After a heartfelt goodbye and the revelation of Hela, an evil older sister he had no knowledge of, Odin dies and Hela comes out of a portal destroying Thor’s hammer and kicking both Loki and Thor’s butts. After attempting to flee through Asgard’s portal, Hela gives chase, knocking Loki and then Thor out of the portal where they land on Sakaar two weeks apart from each other. Hela meanwhile, lands on Asgard, recruits Skurge (The Executioner), kills Thor’s friends and every single guard, raises an undead army, then tries to find the resistance. Thor crash lands and is sold to the Grandmaster of Sakaar as a contender, where he fights the undefeated Hulk.  There, he plots his escape, makes friends with the last Valkyrie and busts out the other inmates.  After a battle which includes them jumping out of their aircraft to destroy others, they escape up the Devil’s Anus (portal) to Asgard.

Thor, Loki, Hulk, and Valkyrie, fight Hela. During the fight, Skurge switches sides and Thor loses one of his eyes to Hela.  Hulk fights a giant wolf, Valkyrie fights Hela and Heimdall fights undead guards.  Loki starts Ragnarok by dipping Surtur’s helmet in the eternal flame, restoring Surtur to his full power. Surtur destroys both Hela and the city of Asgard. Thor, saddened by the needed sacrifice of Asgard, remembers his father’s words “Asgard isn’t the place, It’s the people.”

Some of the things I liked about this movie was that Marvel brought back the Hulk, the designs of the spaceships, costumes, weapons, and the epic, but funny fight scenes. The Hulk has always been one of my favorite superheroes. When he disappeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron, I was disappointed to not see him. With him in a movie, you are guaranteed to see some exciting fights. The spaceships looked amazing. They were all very futuristic, flashy, and were aesthetically pleasing. Thor’s costume was the best I’ve seen it. It made him look like the god of thunder and emphasized his superhero frame. I never liked his previous costumes. This costume looked like it was made for a gladiator, while the previous ones looked more like armor from the medieval times. They are supposed to look like that, but gladiators always looked cooler to me than knights. His old hairstyle was plain bad. The dirty, Goldilocks hairstyle did not fit him very well. We can thank Stan Lee for the improvement! That was funny when Stan Lee was Thor’s barber on the planet Sakaar. My favorite weapon was Hulk’s hammer that he used to fight Thor. That thing kicked butt! My two favorite fight scenes were the first fight with Surtur and the last fight with Hela. The first was great because it was funny and the second because of the special effects and comedy.

One character I would have left out of the movie would be the Grandmaster. In this film, he seemed pampered, eccentric, and weak. In the comics, he’s a powerful cosmic being, brother of the Collector, and is much more sinister and cunning. He takes Marvel’s villains and pits them against Marvel’s heroes in a tournament with his brother, the Collector.  The battles are in an app called Marvel Contest of Champions.

The high quality of the special effects and music well integrated with the video made the movie more intense, aesthetically pleasing, and immersive. The Immigrant Song was my favorite song. It blended well with scenes and the lyrics tied into Norse mythology. The lightning emanating around Thor was my favorite special effect. I could not imagine the movie without it! Thor would never have looked so powerful.

In the post-movie credits, a scene shows Thor and the citizens of Asgard staring at Thanos’s ship. This creates a segue into the next chapter, Infinity War. Trailers of this upcoming movie show Loki holding the teseract, Thor screaming while bound by a metal contraption, and a few other glimpses of Thor and his band of friends.

I would recommend seeing Thor: Ragnarok, especially if you can still catch it in theaters!

Veganism – I Tried

Pig parts. Pig hearts. Pig farts. It is all in the pork we eat and the bacon we salivate over.  I was scared. I was scared enough to make a change. I’m like many Americans, I enjoy a large juicy steak and fall-off-the-bone pork ribs.  I also love Hopdoddy’s Magic Shroom burger. Those are the kind of meals I look forward to.

That changed about two weeks ago when I was forced to watch “What the Health” by my Mom. She felt like she needed to ruin meat for me and she did! Actually, what she wanted to do was present me with a counter argument to a meat-heavy diet and its impact on the environment. The film detailed how eating meat, pork, and poultry have a bad impact on one’s health and is linked to so many diseases. My family and I decided to go vegan for two weeks. Unfortunately, it happened to coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday –  when most people are enjoying a plump turkey or spiral ham and buttery mashed potatoes with gravy, which I love so much.

The doctors who were in “What the Health” explained how meat is linked to coronary heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Cheese and milk (dairy products) also have a significant impact. Basically, milk is nothing more than liquid meat and America’s number one source of saturated fat.  Many people incorrectly believe that chicken is so much healthier than red meat. However, this isn’t the case since chicken has almost the same amount of cholesterol as red meat. Because of this incorrect assumption, chicken is the number one source of cholesterol for Americans.  Fish isn’t all that healthy as well as it contains mercury and is also high in cholesterol.  The documentary also cited that eating one whole egg is the equivalent to smoking five cigarettes. All this was a big shock to me since I believed eggs, chicken, and fish were healthy. They are also some of my favorite things to eat.

Big health agencies such as the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and the American Heart Association (AHA) have their own dietary guidelines and recommendations. These guidelines are found on each agency’s website.  Some of the diets promote eating meat and offer many meat recipes. In “What the Health”, the narrator of the documentary called for interviews with the people who published the guidelines and recommendations.  For each company, they either declined or canceled the interview and directed the interviewer to contact the organization’s headquarters. The few people he was able to interview refused to speak about their recommendations. They did not want to talk about disease prevention, but only how to manage the disease (i.e., diabetes, high blood pressure) once it had developed.  After further research, he discovered  why. The ACS, ADA, and AHA were all funded by large and powerful corporations such as Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), Tyson (largest chicken producer), Cargill (largest supplier of animal feed and nutrition), and Yoplait (yogurt). This goes to show you how the major health agencies are influenced by large corporate sponsors. I couldn’t believe the corruption!

We have been led to believe that protein is some super macronutrient and can only be obtained from eating animal products.  However, protein can be so much better sourced from plants.  Some of the strongest animals on earth only eat plants such as the elephant, giraffe, horse, and rhinoceros.  It is rare to find people in America that are protein deficient.  However, many people do not eat enough fiber.  Fiber can be found in beans, lentils, nuts and vegetables. I know I don’t eat as much fiber as I do meat.

Aside from the health aspect of eating meat, I found it really disturbing watching how meat is produced and the process of getting meat products to our tables have the highest carbon footprint.  I won’t go into detail about this, but I would recommend reading about the situation in Duplin County, North Carolina.  They are the biggest pig producers in the country and the pig manure is killing everyone in the county.  They have a really hard time protecting their water from contamination.

When my family tried going vegan, we found it hard for a few reasons. First, it was a big change from our normal eating habits.  A lot of food had animal products in it like milk or eggs, and we were getting tired of going to a limited number of restaurants and eating the same dish each time.  Very few restaurants offered vegan food that tasted good. After three days, I couldn’t keep being vegan. My family then went vegetarian for the rest of the two weeks. I didn’t feel too bad about the transition, but I was slightly disappointed in myself for not being able to stick with a vegan diet for more than three days.

My attempt to try veganism was an experiment, which did result in my feeling a little more energetic than when I did while eating meat. When we ate a vegetarian meal, we would also limit snacks to those with lots of carbohydrates. My family and I snack a lot, and while we were vegan, we couldn’t eat the snacks we usually ate, which was a good thing for our health but something we had difficulty maintaining. I haven’t noticed any major changes except for when I eat healthy for most of a day, the next day I have more energy.

I can’t say I will give up meat forever, but I’ll definitely cut back significantly. As for my family, my sister is probably going to still eat meat every now and then.  My parents intend to become pescatarians, but still limit the amount of seafood they eat.  We are going to cook mostly vegetarian at home, but we are all allowed to make our own dietary decisions when we dine out.

(Photo of sponsors by Loki’s Revenge)

My Journey to Becoming an Avid Reader

I hated reading. Nothing about it was appealing. I didn’t want to spend my time reading random words in a boring book. My mom forced me to read daily. She knew the importance of reading, but couldn’t persuade me to like or enjoy it. Even knowing the benefits, I didn’t like it. Like most people, I only like to do things that are fun. Back then, reading wasn’t fun to me at all.

All of that drudgery I felt towards reading started to change around fourth grade. My mom suggested that I read before going to bed to calm my ticks so I could fall sleep. Since I don’t like going to bed early, I liked the excuse to be able to stay up even if it meant that I had to crack open a book. Shortly, after I developed this habit, I had two consecutive teachers who loved to read and encouraged it strongly. The Hunger Games was the first series I enjoyed reading and devoured. It also helped that I had a close friend and classmates who were into the series.

I liked the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because it had action, was well written, had interesting characters, and had detail. My favorite character is Katniss because of her determination, bravery, and loyalty. Reading how Katniss survived the Hunger Games – the struggle to take down the government and President Snow, and the twists throughout the book made it one of my favorite series. For me, it is right up there with the Harry Potter series and the Young Neos series.

Through my friends’ and classmates’ recommendations, I read the Maze Runner, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson series. All of them had the things I look for in a book – an interesting character, a good storyline, twist(s), action, and detailed descriptions.

Some of my favorite authors are Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling, Lucas Flint, and Suzanne Collins, whom I previously mentioned. Rick Riordan is the author of the Percy Jackson series. He has made a few series about Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse mythology. J.K Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter series. Just like the Hunger Games, the Harry Potter series is very well-known. Lucas Flint is the author of the Superhero’s Son, Young Neos, and the Minimum Wage Sidekick series. His books are always fun to read. Something that I like about Lucas Flint is his pace in publishing a new book almost every month.

When I first started to enjoy reading, I always read the paper version. I didn’t know the benefits of owning a Kindle. I thought it wouldn’t be worth it if I bought one since I still had to pay for books and the Kindle was expensive. I didn’t know about Kindle Unlimited until my mom bought me a Kindle and started paying a monthly subscription. I realized that I could read almost any book just for ten dollars a month! I also realized that I could look up and find the next book in the series I was reading without having to go look for it in the library or bookstore. Since then, I’ve only read on my Kindle, unless I don’t have it with me. I use various mediums to read. If I want to read a graphic novel, I’ll probably read it on paper. If I’m just reading text, I use my Kindle.

Most nights, I read from 15 to 30 minutes. I read more or less depending on the time I get into bed. I read sci-fi/fantasy, most of the time. More specifically, superhero chapter books. Lucas Flint is the author of the first superhero chapter book I’ve ever read. Ever since I finished his first series, I mainly read superhero novels.  On average, I read two to three books per week.

Becoming an avid reader, has helped me significantly expand my vocabulary, develop strong comprehension skills, and enhance my stamina to read for long periods of time.  As a result, I believe that my love for reading makes it easier for me to succeed in other school subjects. My advice for those who are struggling with reading is to find a genre or topic they enjoy and stick with it for as long as they enjoy it.  In the beginning, it is not important to read a wide range of books – just focus on the ones that bring enjoyment.