Monthly Archives: July 2013

Universal Studios Hollywood: Studio Tour

Today, we are going to Universal Studios, Hollywood! When we get there, there are huge doors that welcome us into Universal Studios. We walk along the red carpet, which leads us into the park. After looking at the maps, we decide to go on the Studio Tour first. There, the line is over an hour long! When we get onto the tram, it takes us to the different sets, where actual movies and T.V. shows are filmed! The Voice and movies such as Despicable Me 2 are filmed there.

Then, we go into a 3D King Kong experience. The tram rolls along into a dark tunnel. For a moment, everything is silent and pitch black. Then, the screens that stretch over our head and covering everything we can see, lights up. We are in a forest, back in the time of the dinosaurs. A purple little dinosaur looks at us, cocking its head. We hear bird calls and other forest sounds. Everything stops. The purple dinosaur turns and runs, followed by its friends. A huge T-Rex comes into view, preceded by thundering footsteps. He roars, but another T-Rex decides to join the fun. Together, they are the kings of the forest until… A humongous ape crashes through the trees, beating its chest and roaring. The two T-Rexes and King Kong battle for dominance. King Kong throws one of the T-Rexes onto the tram. The tram shudders, but the T-Rex quickly gets up bounds off the tram and towards King Kong. The two foes battle each other for dominance for a while more. Then King Kong throws a T-Rex into the side of our tram. Our tram shakes and we seem to crash through the trees until we reach a cliff. The chasm isn’t too wide, and there are vines that stretch across it. King Kong bounds through the trees and pushes us off the cliff! We lay there, suspended by the vines and look up, seeing the tow still fighting. A T-Rex falls onto the vines as well, and they shudder, and break! We fall into the spiraling darkness… and the doors to the tunnel open and we are once again out into the bright sunlight. What an experience!

We next see the town where many things were filmed. It could look like any suburban neighborhood. Desperate Housewives was filmed there. Then comes a street. A random street. It could be in New York, Chicago, California, you name it. Multiple movies have used this street.

We then ride into a train station. We stop as the tour guide, Kevin, talks about the movie filmed in there. The movie was known as Earthquake. In the train station, there all of a sudden is a violent tremor. Kevin reassures us by telling us how LA/Hollywood often have these “little” earthquake tremors. But then the ground starts shaking really hard, the walls are trembling, about to collapse, and the roof comes crashing down, revealing a car that slides down and comes very, very close to the tram. I actually believe that it’s a real earthquake until I hear Kevin, telling us how this is just a little quake, that it will be over soon, but then, as he turns off his microphone, I hear him laughing. A train comes into the train station, but the collapsed roof is in the way. The train hits it, and crumples, because it was going at such a high speed. A roaring noise fills my ears and Kevin tells us that the water main must have broken. Flood! Water comes pouring out at us and we can fell it all over us. The tram shakes, but we aren’t hurt. Just wet. There is a cracking noise, and the train has broken in two. “Let’s get out of here!” exclaims Kevin, and the tram starts rolling forward. We’ve almost made it out, but then the second half of the train comes swinging towards us, but we get out of the way just in time.

We drive along until we reach Whoville from Dr. Seuss’s book Horton Hears a Who. The buildings are huge, making all the characters in there seem tiny. The bendy buildings, the pastel colors, it looked like I walked straight into a book. That was pretty cool. As we pass Whoville, we go into a section full of automobiles. The batman car was there, looking sleek and shiny, and so was the car from Jurassic Park that ended up in a tree. Kevin told us that the whole car was made from plywood so that it can land in the tree without breaking too many branches or falling out of the tree.

We roll along in our tram and approach a lake. I see a shark that was hanged and killed and immediately know that this is from the movie Jaws.  Kevin tells us that there have been no shark attacks since 1893, but a scuba diver is in the middle of the lake, swimming when a gray dorsal fin surfaces and heads right towards him. The water around the diver starts turning red. He screams and disappears under the surface. “Uh oh,” says Kevin, “Looks like there are more shark attacks! Why don’t we hide behind the gasoline cans?” We roll along behind the gasoline cans and watch as the dorsal fin approaches then leap out of the water, swinging his tail and…BOOM! His tail hit the cans and they exploded! Fire blazes out and we can feel the heat on our faces. Great idea, Kevin. We drive around the lake and leave it, as Kevin tells how Bruce the mechanical shark was built in freshwater, tested in freshwater, and filmed in saltwater. The system would go haywire and the shark would randomly swim around. They had to keep on fixing it, over and over, until…it worked…but failed again. Eventually, Bruce worked and the movie was finally filmed. The tour concluded then and we drove back into the tram station. It was so much fun! I hope to go again on this ride, even though the experiences won’t be as spectacular, because I know what’s coming. If you ever go to Universal Studios, Hollywood, be sure to go on the Studio Tour. 

 

 

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Geek vs. Nerd – “Geeks are fans, and fans collect stuff; nerds are practitioners, and practitioners play with ideas.”

On “Geek” Versus “Nerd”

by burrsettles

To many people, “geek” and “nerd” are synonyms, but in fact they are a little different. Consider the phrase “sports geek” — an occasional substitute for “jock” and perhaps the arch-rival of a “nerd” in high-school folklore. If “geek” and “nerd” are synonyms, then “sports geek” might be an oxymoron. (Furthermore, “sports nerd” either doesn’t compute or means something else.)

In my mind, “geek” and “nerd” are related, but capture different dimensions of an intense dedication to a subject:

  • geek – An enthusiast of a particular topic or field. Geeks are “collection” oriented, gathering facts and mementos related to their subject of interest. They are obsessed with the newest, coolest, trendiest things that their subject has to offer.
  • nerd A studious intellectual, although again of a particular topic or field. Nerds are “achievement” oriented, and focus their efforts on acquiring knowledge and skill over trivia and memorabilia.

Or, to put it pictorially à la The Simpsons:
geeknerd-simpsons

Both are dedicated to their subjects, and sometimes socially awkward. The distinction is that geeks are fans of their subjects, and nerds are practitioners of them. A computer geek might read Wired and tap the Silicon Valley rumor-mill for leads on the next hot-new-thing, while a computer nerd might read CLRS and keep an eye out for clever new ways of applying Dijkstra’s algorithm. Note that, while not synonyms, they are not necessarily distinct either: many geeks are also nerds (and vice versa).

An Experiment

Do I have any evidence for this contrast? (By the way, this viewpoint dates back to a grad-school conversation with fellow geek/nerd Bryan Barnes, now a physicist at NIST.) The Wiktionary entries for “geek” and “nerd“ lend some credence to my position, but I’d like something a bit more empirical…

“You shall know a word by the company it keeps” ~ J.R. Firth (1957)

To characterize the similarities and differences between “geek” and “nerd,” maybe we can find the other words that tend to keep them company, and see if these linguistic companions support my point of view?

Data and Method

(Note: If you’re neither a geek nor a nerd, don’t be scared by the math. It’s not too bad… or you can probably just skip to the “Results” subsection below…)

I analyzed two sources of Twitter data, since it’s readily available and pretty geeky/nerdy to boot. This includes a background corpus of 2.6 million tweets via the streaming API from between December 6, 2012, and January 3, 2013. I also sampled tweets via the search API matching the query terms “geek” and “nerd” during the same time period (38.8k and 30.6k total, respectively). Yes, yes, yes… I collected all the data six months ago but just now got around to crunching the numbers. It’s been a busy year!

A great little statistic for measuring how much company two words tend to keep is pointwise mutual information (PMI). It’s commonly used in the information retrieval literature to measure the cooccurrence of words and phrases in text, and it also turns out to be a good predictor of how humans evaluate semantic word similarity (Recchia & Jones, 2009) and topic model quality (Newman & al., 2010).

For two words w and v, the PMI is given by:

{\rm pmi}(w;v) = \log\frac{p(w,v)}{p(w)p(v)} = \log p(w|v) - \log p(w) ,

where in this case p(\cdot) is the probability of the word(s) in question appearing in a random tweet, as estimated from the data. For instance, if we let v = “geek,” we compute the log-probability of a word w in the “geek” search corpus, and subtract the log-probability of w in the background corpus.

Results

The PMI statistic measures a kind of correlation: a positive PMI score for two words means they ”keep great company,” a negative score means they tend to keep their distance, and a score close to zero means they bump into each other more or less at random.

With that in mind, here is a scatterplot of various words according to their PMI scores for both “geek” and “nerd” on different axes (ignoring words with negative PMI, and treating #hashtags as distinct):
geeknerd-plot-01

Many people have asked for a high-res PDF of this plot, so here you go.

Moving up the vertical axis, words become more geeky (“#music” → “#gadget” → “#cosplay”), and moving left to right they become more nerdy (“education” → “grammar” → “neuroscience”). Words along the diagonal are similarly geeky and nerdy, including social (“#awkward”, “weirdo”), mainstream tech (“#computers”, “#microsoft”), and sci-fi/fantasy terms (“doctorwho,” ”#thehobbit”). Words in the lower-left (“chores,” “vegetables,” “boobies”) aren’t really associated with either, while those in the upper-right (“#avengers”, “#gamer”, “#glasses”) are strongly tied to both. Orange words are more geeky than nerdy, and blue words are the opposite. Some observations:

  • Collections are geeky. All derivatives of the word “collect” (“collection,” “collectables”, etc.) are orange. As are “boxset” and “#original,” which imply a taste for completeness and authenticity.
  • Academic fields are nerdy: “math”, “#history,” “physics,” “biology,” “neuroscience,” “biochemistry,” etc. Other academic words (“thesis”, “#studymode”) and institutions (“harvard”, “oxford”) are also blue.
  • The science & technology words differ. General terms (“#computers,” “#bigdata”) are on the diagonal — similarly geeky and nerdy. As you splay up toward more geeky, though, you see products, startups, brands, and more cultish technologies (“#apple”, “#linux”). As you splay down toward more nerdy you see more methodologies (“calculus”).
  • #Hashtags are geeky. OK, sure, hashtags are all over the place. But they do tend toward the upper-left. And since hashtags are “#trendy,” I take it to mean that geeks are into trends. (I take this one back. The average PMI score for all hashtags is 0.74 with “geek” but 0.73 with “nerd.” The difference isn’t statistically significant using a paired t-test or Wilcoxon test, or practically significant using a common-sense test.)
  • Hobbies: compare the more geeky pastimes (“#toys,” “#manga”) with the more nerdy ones (“chess,” “sudoku”).
  • Brains: the word “intelligence” may be geeky, but “education,” “intellectual,” and “#smartypants” are nerdy.
  • Reading: “#books” are nerdy, but “ebooks” and “ibooks” are geeky.
  • Pop culture vs. high culture: “#shiny” and “#trendy” are super-geeky, but (curiously) “cellist” is the nerdiest

The list goes on. If you want to poke around yourself, download the raw PMI scores (4.2mb) and let me know in the comments what you find.

(Update: I learned that Olivia Culpo — a self-described “cellist nerd” — was crowned Miss Universe on December 20, 2012. The event was heavily tweeted smack in the middle of my data collection, so that probably explains the correlation between “cellist” and “nerd” here. It also underscores the limitations of time-sensitive data.)

Conclusion

In broad strokes, it seems to me that geeky words are more about stuff (e.g., “#stuff”), while nerdy words are more about ideas (e.g., “hypothesis”). Geeks are fans, and fans collect stuff; nerds are practitioners, and practitioners play with ideas. Of course, geeks can collect ideas and nerds play with stuff, too. Plus, they aren’t two distinct personalities as much as different aspects of personality. Generally, the data seem to affirm my thinking.

I wonder how similar the results would be if you applied this method to the Google Books Ngrams corpus, or something more general instead of a niche media like Twitter. I also wonder what other questions might be answered with this kind of analysis (for example, my wife and I have a perennial disagreement over which word is wetter: “moist” vs. “damp.”).

Finally, when I mentioned to a friend that I was going to write up this post, she said “Well, I guess we know which one you are.” But do we really? I may be a science nerd, but I’m probably a music geek

BTW AUTHOR’S NOTE

Hey Bloggers!

Just want you to know that I am having this terribly bad habit where I start a story, and don’t finish it. So from now on, I’ll be just wrting story prompts. If you’d like me to continue one, just comment.

Thanks!

 

The Heir of Stardust-Chapters 1 and 2

Prologue:
It was a cool autumn night, the stars were clear and the moon dazzled from up above.
A cloaked figure was walking down Stardust Avenue, next to her stalked a beautiful snow leopard. The leopard’s powerful muscles rippled under her silky dappled fur, her cautious blue eyes glinted in the pitch dark.
The figure walked quickly into a small, rundown building, the leopard trotting beside her.
“Greetings, Mr. Birney,” a female voice rang out. Mr. Birney, a short bald man with wise twinkling eyes, looked up.
“Ahhh, my dear one, you have arrived! Do come in.” Without taking of her coat the figure walked in. Mr. Birney gasped as he set his eyes on the leopard then jumped up and screamed. Startled, the leopard crouched back and prepared to lunge. The figure quickly got up and calmed the leopard.
“Shhhh, Precious.” She said, running her fingers along the leopard’s soft, beautiful coat. Mr. Birney saw, her eyes barely visible under the figure’s hood, were glaring at him.
“Sorry,” Mr. Birney said quickly, his face turning crimson.
“Alright,” Mr. Birney said, getting back into business. “What would you like me to do?” The figure quickly handed him a sheet, as if scared, that even in this privacy, someone would see. Mr. Birney scanned through the sheet, nodding as he read through everything. “These are beautiful,” he murmured.
The figure gave an exasperated sigh, “Are you done yet?” she asked impatiently.
Mr. Birney nodded, “Meet me at the Great Hemlock, in the dip of the Seven Hills, at the full moon, 2 days from now.” Then his eyes narrowed, “Or should I even do this for you?” he said tauntingly.
The figure laughed, “Oh I think you should.” She said, taking off her cloak. Mr. Birney’s jaws dropped open as he saw the figure. The long, black hair that tumbled just down her shoulders, the breathtakingly beautiful features and a silver circlet around her head set with a sapphire.
She was…”Princess Aramina!” Mr. Birney exclaimed, quickly dropping to his knees. The princess rolled her eyes, “See you at the Great Hemlock!” She said, and walked out the doors, the leopard right behind her, leaving Mr. Birney gawking.
Chapter 1:
“Aramina, stop playing with the palace guards, it’s time to do your royal duties!!!” Queen Celestia yelled. Aramina looked back, disappointment clear as crystal on her face, “Just after I shoot ONE more arrow?” Aramina pleaded. Queen Celestia pursed her lips as she marched Aramina away from the palace guards.
“That’s enough young lady, you are a girl, a PRINCESS for heaven’s sake. You should not be spending your time shooting arrows or throwing spears or any of that JUNK!!!!!” Queen Celestia said through clenched teeth as she dragged the princess up the stairs. Aramina’s face twisted into a pout as she was thrown into her room.
“But Mom-“Aramina began but was silenced by the look on her mom’s face.
“Now, you can stay up here and think about what you did wrong until breakfast. It’s almost 7:oo and you haven’t done any work yet!” Queen Celestia said calmly but her eyes glinted with that ‘You are in big trouble missy’ look.
Aramina sank down into her mattress looking at her sickening pink walls. She racked her brain for eating etiquette for she knew that if she wasn’t semi-polite her mom would definitely lock her up in this unappealing room forever.
As she was thinking over which goes on the left; fork or knife? The thud of a rock brought her over to her tiny window. Her amber eyes shone and a smile broke across her face as wide as the Grand Canyon.
“Aramina!” Stephan called, pushing a lock of cocoa colored hair out of his eyes.
Aramina swung her legs out the window and pushed her slender body out. Then, balancing on the roof she sprang lightly and somersaulted onto a delicate ridge. Arching her flexible back she reached under and retrieved her bow and arrows. She took a brightly colored arrow with a string attached from her quiver, aiming it at a point in the ground. Then… BOOM! Direct hit! She strapped on her quiver and slung her bow across her shoulder. Holding on tightly to the rope, she jumped of the ridge. Stephan rolled his eyes as Aramina soared of the roof gracefully, landing like a cat.
“Do you always have to make a big show about escaping from your room?” Stephan asked, laughter sparkling in his grass green eyes.
Aramina laughed, “Yup, gives me a bit of exhilaration after curtsying and drinking tea.” Aramina looked earnestly at the woods beyond.
Stephan chuckled, “Yeah sure. Let’s go now!”
Aramina sprinted towards the woods, easily beating Stephan. They followed a crystal clear stream until they got to a strawberry bush. The bush loomed above them like a giant green curtain, sparkling with tiny dew drop lights and candy apple red strawberry ornaments. Stephan poked at a stick then suddenly the stick sprang wide, making a gate. Aramina slipped in noiselessly while Stephan arrived jumping around with twigs in his hair.
They sat down at their rock, which pretty much over looked the whole forest. The strawberry bush kept their secret hideout hidden from outsiders. Inside was a blooming hibiscus bush, its soft lavender color creating dappled patterns on the soft earth. A honeysuckle vine curled its way around a cherry tree, the blossoms speckled on the ground. Stephan picked a hibiscus blossom and tucked it behind Aramina’s ear.
“Happy birthday little princess” Stephan whispered
Aramina made a face, “My birthday is tomorrow and I am NOT a princess.”
Stephan laughed, “Technically you are”
“Am not! At least don’t wanna be.”
“Uh huh”
“Uh uh”
“Whatever”
Aramina smiled, “Happy birthday to you too”
Stephan smiled back. Aramina couldn’t help counting the colors in his eyes. Suddenly, the clock chimed. Stephan and Aramina gasp, “It’s 7:30!” they both shout. They slide out their hiding place then sprint back to the palace.
“See ya” Aramina said. Stephan nods and heads back to the village. Aramina took the brightly colored arrow and shoots it at the ridge. She pulls herself up just seconds before the door opens. Quickly kicking the sheath of arrows and her bow under the bed, she closes the window then dives into bed. The door opens with a creak.
“Aramina…? I hope you haven’t been lying in bed for the whole time.”
“No Mom practiced my pointe and table etiquette.”
Queen Celestia’s eyes slide to Aramina’s left ear. With a jolt she remembers the hibiscus. Celestia’s eyes brighten up,
“Oh! How wonderful! The palace gardener gave you a flower…. and you wore it! Like a girl!!” Queen Celestia says, “You look darling!” She cooed.
“Ummmmm, yeah! Does it look good with my hair?”
Queen Celestia brightens up, “It looks wonderful! You are such a pretty girl, pity you spend your time shooting arrows.” Aramina gathers her features into something that resembles a smile.
“C’mon, breakfast will be cold!” Celestia says in that trademark ‘Queen Celestia Enthusiasm’. With a sigh Aramina follows.
The smells of sausage and eggs greet her as Aramina enters the dining room. As she eats, her father and mother discuss her birthday. Aramina taps on her glass goblet.
“Yes, Aramina?” Her father says with his booming voice.
“I’d like to have permission to invite someone.” Aramina says nervously, pulling at her hunting jacket.
Queen Celestia gasps, “Oh, do tell!”
Aramina gives a nervous glance at her mother, “He’s from the village. His name is-”
“A poor, dirty, boy from the village! Definitely not!”
Her father shoots a sympathetic glance at Aramina, “Celestia, let us hear all that Aramina has to say.”
Aramina gulps, “His name is Stephan, and he’s the eldest of 3 sisters and 2 brothers. And he has the same birthday as me.”
“Alright” Queen Celestia says doubtfully, “But he better come in looking decent.”
Aramina’s eyes lighten up, “Thanks mom!” and she races out the door.
Chapter 2:
Stephan watched in awe as Aramina mashed up some hazelnuts and chestnuts. She drizzled it with honey and added a few mint leaves. Then she made a salad with tender shoots of young hawthorn and sprinkled on some thyme and wild garlic. Topping each off with a few strawberries, she presented both dishes to Stephan.
Stephan’s eyes pop, “Wow” he mouths.
Aramina laughed, “Try it!”
Stephan didn’t need to be told twice, he dug into the salad shoving greens into his mouth. He ‘ahhhhed’ as the honey of the nuts burst his taste buds.
“That was great!” Stephan exclaimed, licking his lips.
Aramina smiled then handed Stephan a scroll, the smile turning into a nervous smile.
The scroll was made of the thick, creamy, expensive palace stationary. The ink was a rich emerald green color. Stephan read through the fancy script.
“You’re inviting me to your birthday party?!” he exclaims disbelievingly, “Does your mom know?”
“Yeah, you can come as long as you look decent.” Aramina says with a snort
“Um…. define decent.”
Aramina grinned, “I’m taking you to the tailor, don’t worry I’ll pay for everything.” Stephan replied back with a groan.
***
“Rise and shine! You have a busy, BUSY day!” Queen Celestia called, knocking on the door 20 times. Aramina groaned, rolling out of bed.
“Wear that beautiful blue dress that Granny sent you. And don’t forget your circlet!” Celestia yelled and flitted away.
Aramina changed and brushed through her hair, leaving her hair down instead of putting it in a ponytail like she usually does. She fastened her circlet and slid her feet into her rarely used blue slippers.
The pile of presents grew and grew as fancy guests arrived. At the head of the table was the Aramina’s father, King Alvord. On the right of the King was Queen Celestia. On the left was an empty chair for Aramina.
Stephan peeked in nervously. He was wearing a rich navy blue vest over a pearly white undershirt. His silk pants did little to help his sweaty palms. He walked slowly, fearing he would trip. Aramina had reserved a special chair for him next her. The Queen smiled brightly but Stephan saw doubt in her eyes.
“Her highness, Princess Aramina!” King Alvord booms, his big voice bouncing off the walls. Stephan’s jaws drop open as Aramina appears. She wore a soft, sky blue dress that fluttered around her knees as though she were dressed in a cloud. Stephan knew that Aramina was pretty but here she appeared beautiful, her amber eyes bright with excitement and wide with shock, framed by long, dark lashes. Her perfect, full lips were a soft pale pink, and her cheeks blushing. The blue color brought out her skin as a fair cream. Her dark hair waved down the middle of her back. A silver circlet wrapped around the head, set with a dazzling sapphire.
“Let us all raise our glasses to the heir of Stardust, and honor Princess Aramina on her 13th birthday!!” a loud roar burst mixed with the tinkling of glass. Aramina flushed with excitement and walked down the carpet. Her dress flowed down, complementing her slender figure. She motioned to a servant, “Tell Stephan to close his mouth before a bird flies in.”
Aramina sat down and looked at Stephan in awe. The undershirt clung tight to his body, showing off the muscles. And the navy blue gave off an aurora that made his skin an attractive tan. Both eyes, wide with shock stared into each other.
“Ahem!” Queen Celestia coughed loudly. King Alvord shot Celestia a disapproving look.
“Let us all eat now!” King Alvord yells, barely finishing his own words before diving in the roast pork.
Finally, after all the plates have been licked clean, they gather in the ballroom. Presents after presents were presented to Aramina. When Stephan arrived with a tiny box, Queen Celestia snorted and shot him a critical glare. Aramina gave her mother a withering look then opened the box. Inside were two silver combs. Intricate flower designs were made out of a blue gemstone. Beautiful designs were carved deftly around the edges.
“Wow” Aramina murmured, even her mother gasped. “Oh Stephan, this would have cost you a fortune!” Aramina exclaims.
“They were my grandmother’s” Stephan says softly.
Queen Celestia gasps, this time not in awe. “A comb from a villager! Aramina will NOT wear those!” But her father maneuvered the comb into her hair, the silver and blue matching her circlet. Aramina thanked Stephan graciously as the next guest came up to her.
Finally, the time came when the King and Queen presented their gift to the princess. The crowd watched anxiously as a big box was hauled up. Her father lowered the box gently by Aramina’s feet. A tiny mew escaped from the box. Aramina gasped, hope shining in her eyes. The lids lifted up and a fluffy little snow leopard cub sprang out. Aramina laughed with joy as the leopard bounded into her arms.
“Daddy!” she squealed, all dignity forgotten. “A snow leopard all the way from the North!” her father smiled, “It was worth two bows, an eagle, an arrowhead, and 3 deer.”
“Aramina, you better train her. I don’t want that thing pooping all over my carpets.” Queen Celestia says, but she’s smiling too.
Aramina nods, “I’ll name her Precious.” She declares.

Title: Unknown (any ideas?)

Hey guys, just a story idea. What do you think?
Prologue:
It was a cool autumn night, the stars were clear and the moon dazzled from up above.
A cloaked figure was walking down Stardust Avenue, next to her stalked a beautiful snow leopard. The leopard’s powerful muscles rippled under her silky dappled fur, her cautious blue eyes glinted in the pitch dark.
The figure walked quickly into a small, rundown building, the leopard trotting beside her.
“Greetings, Mr. Birney,” a female voice rang out. Mr. Birney, a short bald man with wise twinkling eyes, looked up.
“Ahhh, my dear one, you have arrived! Do come in.” Without taking of her coat the figure walked in. Mr. Birney gasped as he set his eyes on the leopard then jumped up and screamed. Startled, the leopard crouched back and prepared to lunge. The figure quickly got up and calmed the leopard.
“Shhhh, Precious.” She said, running her fingers along the leopard’s soft, beautiful coat. Mr. Birney saw, her eyes barely visible under the figure’s hood, were glaring at him.
“Sorry,” Mr. Birney said quickly, his face turning crimson.

“Alright,” Mr. Birney said, getting back into business. “What would you like me to do?” The figure quickly handed him a sheet, as if scared, that even in this privacy, someone would see. Mr. Birney scanned through the sheet, nodding as he read through everything. “These are beautiful,” he murmured.
The figure gave an exasperated sigh, “Are you done yet?” she asked impatiently.
Mr. Birney nodded, “Meet me at the Great Hemlock, in the dip of the Seven Hills, at the full moon, 2 days from now.” Then his eyes narrowed, “Or should I even do this for you?” he said tauntingly.
The figure laughed, “Oh I think you should.” She said, taking off her cloak. Mr. Birney’s jaws dropped open as he saw the figure. The long, black hair that tumbled just down her shoulders, the breathtakingly beautiful features and a silver circlet around her head set with a sapphire.
She was…”Princess Aramina!” Mr. Birney exclaimed, quickly dropping to his knees. The princess rolled her eyes, “See you at the Great Hemlock!” She said, and walked out the doors, the leopard right behind her, leaving Mr. Birney gawking behind her.
Chapter 1:
“Aramina, stop playing with the palace guards, it’s time to do your royal duties!!!” Queen Celestia yelled. Aramina looked back, disappointment clear as crystal on her face, “Just after I shoot ONE more arrow?” Aramina pleaded. Queen Celestia pursed her lips as she marched Aramina away from the palace guards.
“That’s enough young lady, you are a girl, a PRINCESS for heaven’s sake. You should not be spending your time shooting arrows or throwing spears or any of that JUNK!!!!!” Queen Celestia said through clenched teeth as she dragged the princess up the stairs. Aramina’s face twisted into a pout as she was thrown into her room.
“But Mom-“Aramina began but was silenced by the look on her mom’s face.
“Now, you can stay up here and think about what you did wrong until dinner” Queen Celestia said sternly and calmly but her eyes glinted with that ‘You are in big trouble missy’ look.
Poor Aramina sank down into her mattress looking at her sickening pink walls. She racked her brain for eating etiquette for she knew that if she wasn’t semi-polite her mom would definitely lock her up in this unappealing room forever.
As she was thinking over which goes on the left; fork or knife? The thud of a rock brought her over to her tiny window. Her amber eyes shone and a smile broke across her face as wide as the Grand Canyon.
“Aramina!” Stephan called, pushing a lock of cocoa colored hair out of his eyes.
Aramina swung her legs out the window and pushed her slender body out. Then, balancing on the roof she sprang lightly and somersaulted onto a delicate ridge. Arching her flexible back she reached under and retrieved her bow and arrows. She took a brightly colored arrow with a string attached from her quiver, aiming it at a point in the ground. Then… BOOM! Direct hit! She strapped on her quiver and slung her bow across her shoulder. Holding on tightly to the rope, she jumped of the ridge. Stephan rolled his eyes as Aramina soared of the roof gracefully, landing like a cat.
“Do you always have to make a big show about escaping from your room?” Stephan asked. Laughter sparkling in his grass green eyes.

Pembroke Summer Camp

Hi everyone! I just just advertising something shortly. So this summer I have been doing mostly summer camps at Pembroke. I would just like to recommend summer camps there. The lower campus is very large and the classes are fun; (this week, my sketchbook class got walk into the plaza and get ice cream! and we made commercials for my Critical thinking class.) And for all of you in Shawnee, Olathe, and Blue valley, the food here (if you sign up for lunch bunch) is amazing. I mean, come on. They have a separate dining Hall and chefs.

Climbing Huayna Picchu in Peru

This is the second to last day of our trip. This morning, we had the option to climb Huayna Picchu, the Sun Gate, or do one of the resort (Inkaterra)’s excursions. My dad and I opted to hike Huayna Picchu, with Maya, of course. However, we got separated and we arrived to the peak later than them, because of our late start. The trail was well managed with steel ropes that you can hang onto when you climb the steep stairs. To blend in, the steel ropes were painted a green that has started peeling off. The hike is through the rainforest. There is vegetation surrounding you completely and in between the stone steps are little plants. The hike is very steep, especially near the top. When we arrived to the peak, there were two tunnels in which you had to squeeze through. The peak yielded a gorgeous sight of Machu Picchu. Everything looked so small! When we decided to begin our descent, there was two paths. We saw one of my classmates going down the left side. Unsure of where to go, we asked a random person. He had a map and said, “Both ways lead to Machu Picchu!” So we went to the left. The descent was long, arduous, and tiring. Oh well, at least it was better than ascending. We caught up to the Foyer family. After a short while, we decided to sit on a rock, look at Machu Picchu, and eat. That was when we lost the Foyers. We got up and walked two steps when we saw it. A sheer drop 20 feet down, with the only way down being a rickety wooden ladder balanced against the cliff. I got to go first. It was pretty freaky, knowing that if I fell, I would have a broken leg and still have to hike an hour back to our rendezvous point. What would happen if we didn’t show up? All these thoughts rushed through my head. And…I dropped my jacket. Carefully descending, I tried to pick it up, but only succeeded in pushing it down lower. That’s when my dad started climbing. Uh oh. What if the ladder tipped over? One side was a drop down to the bottom of the mountain which would mean a sure death, and the other was a stone wall. I finally reached the bottom with a sigh of relief. We hiked along the winding trail, down a bunch of steps, and rested some more for another hour. Suddenly, we came upon a Incan ruin. Huh. Why was that there? I remembered our guide saying that there were watchtowers stationed all around Machu Picchu. Aha. That just be it. We continued to the very bottom of the mountain. Something wasn’t right. The river that we saw at the bottom of the Machu Picchu mountain was right in front of us. Weird. We continued along the path as it flattened out into a field and green grass and yellow and purple flowers. To the left was a huge cave. The rock was white, with a hint of yellow. It almost seemed to glow, like the moon. But the main thing was the structure inside the cave. There were the niches in which statues were put, and a sacrificial alter with perfectly carved steps leading up to it. We could’ve explored more of the cave, but we didn’t know where we were and so we headed onto the path again. Then we saw the sign. The sign that said, “Machu Picchu: I hour, 30 minutes”. I couldn’t believe that we walked a hour just to visit some cave, and now we would have to walk ninety tiring minutes, but the worst was still yet to come. We walked a little before finding that we had to go uphill! That means a few hundred more stairs. We stopped for frequent breaks and were whooping with joy when we saw the trails merge and the first sign of human life for 2 and a half hours. We asked a guide where we had went and he told us that we had gone to the moon temple.
We went back to Machu Picchu and found the Foyer family and the guides (Patty or Patricia, our main guide, and Ro, a guide just for Machu Picchu). It turned out that we (the Foyer family and us) were the only family that actually went to the moon temple. At the time, I despised having to walk so much and was so tired, but now, looking back on it, it was so much fun and I’m glad to have done that great experience!