Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Take a wild guess what I'm reading now!

civil-war-001.jpg I leave you only this picture as a clue.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

The Phoenix Sentinel

The Phoenix Sentinel
By Jourdan Cameron
Based on the duty of the dragon in Beowulf

“These words here are my last to you, my only child, the sole survivor of our people. Thus, I shall make them count.” So spoke the mighty dragon, eternal guardian of the riches of the Atlanteans. “Three hundred and ninety-four years I have been the protector of all you see surrounding you. I was assigned this work by one in a similar position to mine- his family, friends, and every trace of his people was wiped out entirely. So it is with us.” The little winged lizard looked up at its parent. Though it was born shortly after Wiglaf had left with the body of its parents killer- the man who was also responsible for its birth, since such a debilitating incision is necessary for it to leave its parents diaphragm- it sensed the danger it would have been in, and after the deathstroke to its parent, remained inside until it was safe to leave.
“Now, little one” uttered its parent “you must remain here no longer. The Danes will return for the gold, this-” the dragon cut itself off in mid-sentence. “This so-called treasure sickens me” he said “It has cost innocent people their lives. I was the one who slaughtered them, mercilessly.” It begged its tiny offspring never to follow its footsteps. “I had taken a vow which I was bound by- to always protect these rotten piles of gold. Don’t ever promise to protect something that will take lives.” The old dragon gasped, as its time was running out, lifeblood seeping away. “Now please, become a guardian to the Danes” The little lizard was shocked by its parents statement. It wanted to know why it should protect the very people responsible for its parents demise. “Because the Danes are noble, you must help them. The Swedes must be stopped- if they go on unhindered, they will destroy the Danes.” The great beast started to wheeze on his words. “Now please, the Swedes will kill innocent people, regardless of their stance in the war, and-” the words were interrupted by yet another gasp “and the Swedes will terrorize the people.”
The great reptile felt its head begin to swim, as its vision began failing.
“I feel something great within you, my child, a phoenix. One day you shall ignite, but mentally not literally. I name you Beowulf. I name you after my killer, and our savior. Now you must leave, I hear the Danes arriving. Remember, you will only accomplish as much as you think you can.”
The tiny lizards wings were massive compared to the rest of his body. He unfurled them for the very first time, and was possessed by the overwhelming urge to move them. He could feel his wings become rigid, and as he moved his wings, up and down, he could feel himself slowly rising. Once he gained sufficient altitude, he leaned backwards. He fell back to the ground. Still eager to use his wings, he repeated the process, but this time, he leaned forward. He was dropping, but he was dropping forward. He could feel the air rush through the various chambers of his scales, as he advanced towards the exit. His parent was correct- the Danes were advancing towards him, although they were still miles away. He rose on a thermal, the warm breeze pulling him ever upward. He looked down at the countryside from the sky, and new it was the dawn of a new era. The Era of the Phoenix Sentinel.

©2009 Jourdan Cameron

The Wonders of Being an Aquarist

The Wonders of Being an Aquarist
By Jourdan Cameron
What is it about aquariums that seem to make people calm and happy? Is it the sounds of bubbles, rising from the depths and disappearing at the surface? Is it perhaps the constant tinkling noises that the filters make, just like a babbling brook? Perhaps it’s the denizens of this moist world, undulating back and forth, moving restlessly to and fro, waving their beautiful fins as pennants. Or perhaps it is the way they conduct themselves, some seemingly lowly, as the corydoras catfish, yet others behaving so regally, as the Siamese fighting fish. Whatever the case, however, when properly executed, aquariums change the atmosphere of a room. They can change the bland, sterile office of a doctor or a dentist into a sanctuary. The journey to the shadowy figure that breaks your jaw, and the wicked murderer who impales your arm, becomes a visit to a friendly dentist who fixes your teeth, and the kind doctor who enjoys healing you.
Aquariums have been proven to reduce stress, and as a result, blood pressure. Not only that, but an aquarium as a focal point can provide endless entertainment, conversation, and be a great source of relaxation. Who takes care of these aquariums, however? One who takes care of an aquarium is known as an aquarist.

Aquarists have much responsibility upon them. For one, it is vital that they start an aquarium properly. They need to carefully add ammonia to a new aquarium before adding any fish. This is to allow the nitrogen cycle to occur. Certain bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrites, and yet another turns the bacteria into nitrates, which are extremely less toxic than ammonia and nitrites.

This is known among aquarists as ‘cycling’ an aquarium, and it is a vital step towards the well being of any of the aquariums denizens. It is done in order for bacterial colonies to become established and help clear the waste products of fish. It is known as biological filtration because of how it employs the help of living bacteria.

In addition to biological, there is chemical and mechanical filtration, the former using various mediums, such as carbon, Zeolite, and assorted resins, to remove chemicals from the water. Mechanical filtration removes particles from the water. Chemical filtration, however, should be used sparingly, and is not a replacement for water changes, another important role the aquarist takes on.

Water changes are vital to the health of aquaria. In addition to removing various chemicals, and debris in the aquarium, they are important for keeping the pH of the aquarium from changing rapidly. They are also necessary to add trace minerals, which though only available in small amounts, are necessary to the health of an aquarium.

Yet another job of the aquarist is that of a landscaper. Making an aquarium beautiful is no small task, simple as it may seem. For one, placement of rocks, plants, statuettes, etc., is very important as to how an aquarium turns out, whether you have a box filled with wet junk, or chest of aquatic wonders. Rocks must be placed in order of size, the largest towards the back of the aquarium, smallest in front. The same applies to plants. It is also important to use important spacing, in order that the rocks aren’t all sitting together in one group, and yet there aren’t gaping holes in the scenery. Not to say a gaping hole is a bad thing, however, considering that it could be used to bring attention to something like a special decoration, such as a castle or bubble-driven ornament.

Sometimes, fish fall ill for one reason or another. It is the duty of an aquarist to now serve as a doctor. There are various diseases that afflict fish, the most common being finrot, a bacterial infection of a fishes fins. This can be brought on by poor water quality, stress, and crowded conditions. The best treatment is to first eliminate the problem by caring for the water quality, and the finrot will usually clear itself. But, if that doesn’t happen, or if the disease is at an advanced stage, the aquarist will use medications made specifically for the purpose of healing finrot.

Yet, in what seems to be much work comes a very large reward: a beautiful aquarium, full of vibrant, healthy fish, and sometimes invertebrates, such as shrimp, clams, and others. An aquarist watches his fish as they go about their lives, socializing, and feeding, mating and fighting, they watch as they rear their young to maturity, the way the small fish interact with one another. Yes, it seems to be extremely laborious, yet what is offered is quite an unparalleled delight.

Aquarists are also responsible for scientific progress as well. Because they spend much time with their fish, they understand many of their complex behaviors in ways that are beneficial to science, and the understanding of just how important certain species are to us, as humankind!
Next time you see an aquarium, remember what went into it. Remember that an aquarist was responsible.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Julius Cæsar Thesis

July 11, 2009:
Initially, Brutus had viewed himself as a servant to Cæsar, he had a powerful, seemingly unbreakable loyalty.

“I would not, Cassius; yet I love him well.
But wherefore do you hold me here so long?
What is it that you would impart to me?
If it be aught toward the general good,
Set honour in one eye and death i' the other,
And I will look on both indifferently,
For let the gods so speed me as I love
The name of honour more than I fear death.”

He was willing to take the proverbial bullet for Cæsar initially, yet, this may not have been truly out of love for him. Rather, it was out of a sense of duty, that if this was not done, he was a traitor to his country, his fellowman, and all that Rome stood for. He believed that anyone who was to do anything of the sort, to even consider it, was to be shunned in the current life, and the figurative ‘next’.
Yet, despite all this, something drove him to betray Cæsar. It wasn’t out of love for Cæsar, rather, it was something that has had a powerful effect on history. It has triggered wars, conspiracies, crime, and much hard labor. It was fear. Fear drove Brutus to betray Cæsar, his beloved Cæsar! This doesn’t mean that his conscience didn’t affect him, however. Portia had taken notice.

“You've ungently, Brutus,
Stole from my bed: and yesternight, at supper,
You suddenly arose, and walk'd about,
Musing and sighing, with your arms across,
And when I ask'd you what the matter was,
You stared upon me with ungentle looks;
I urged you further; then you scratch'd your head,
And too impatiently stamp'd with your foot;
Yet I insisted, yet you answer'd not,
But, with an angry wafture of your hand,
Gave sign for me to leave you: so I did;”

Despite his powerful feelings against harming Cæsar, he feels it must be done.
In his
eyes, Cæsar has grown far too powerful. He is worshipped by too many people, and giving him such influence could have devastating effects should Cæsar turn aside from the people of Rome, towards his own selfish desires.

Cassius and Brutus have a unique relationship in the play. Initially, Cassius viewed Brutus as stubborn, and foolish for his allegiance to Cæsar. Brutus dismissed Cassius as simply another naysayer, jealous of “divine” Cæsar. But after some persuasion (some of which involving deception), and the impalement of Cæsar, Brutus accepts Cassius as his comrade. Thus, the two become ‘friends’, although the friendship was rather one sided in loyalties.

The concept central to the play was one of power. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yet, it wasn’t the regular type of power, but the power of fear, which can be a driving force. Fear can stop crimes, or cause them to occur. Fear can save lives, and extinguish them in the blink of an eye. Fear of corruption led to the death of Cæsar, yet, it most likely led Rome to a new age, the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) in fact. However, during his life, Cæsar brought about great reform to Rome. Perhaps he would have made Rome even better had he lived longer.

What means this shouting? I do fear, the people
Choose Caesar for their king.

Ay, do you fear it?
Then must I think you would not have it so.”
Another core idea to the play was that of loyalty, and how it’s rooted. Poor Brutus had felt that his allegiance to Cæsar was solid, and unbreakable. Cassius, on the other hand, was quite independent of Cæsar, and remained loyal to himself. Because of this self-centered loyalty, and the fact that nobody really knew or cared about it, his loyalty was unbroken. Yet, when it came to Brutus, his loyalty was slowly chipped away at, to the point where it simply snapped under the pressure, needing no more encouragement. Still, this change in loyalty comes at a price. He is emotionally numbed, the death of his wife (by suicide, no less) leaves him unaffected. He simply does not care anymore about what seems to happen, simply because he feels that his life is of no use. He killed his beloved Cæsar, and is now in cahoots with the men who helped kill him! He placed all his loyalty in one place, and then another, and because these places were both moot points, he has nowhere to put his loyalty. Because he feels that he has nobody, he ends his own life. If he doesn’t serve anybody, he has nothing. The trouble is, he never took the time to serve himself.