Harry Potter: When is enough, enough?

I consider myself a connoisseur of sorts when it comes to Harry Potter. I had the whole series read by the third grade, religiously memorized to the point where I can still quote characters from even the least memorable of scenes. Try me.

So when I heard that a new book was going to be released, albeit a screenplay, I was excited. There was so much potential. Potential for things to wrong, sure, but also so much potential for J.K Rowling to remind die-hard fans why we fell in love with the series in the first place. Sadly, I was extremely disappointed. Critics insist the live play was nothing short of spectacular, but Harry Potter and the Cursed Child left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

The screenplay skewed my initial perception of the universe, with its repetitive story line and one-dimensional characters. Even old friends like Harry and Ron were virtually unrecognizable. It seemed more like badly written fan fiction than anything that J.K Rowling could have produced. Hardly worth the $17.98 off Amazon. And now, the franchise is expanding even more.

I have higher hopes for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, mostly because it stars Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne as the protagonist, Newt Scamander. Though, I have to say, five predetermined films (that will reportedly keep the universe alive for the next 19 years) has me a little skeptical that this is all just one big money-making stunt. But if the trailer and initial reviews are anything to go by, the movie will retain the onscreen magic and charm of its historic eight predecessors.

If you ask me, quit while you’re ahead. The universe has gained a colossal fan base over the years. The theme parks, the memorabilia, the every-other-weekend Freeform marathons. For good reason too; it’s timeless. But this over-extension is just that– we’re taking away what makes it special.

I’m still going to see the movie this Thanksgiving break (nothing could keep me away), and fingers-crossed that it will meet my expectations. I want so badly not to be disappointed again. Some people say that I’m crazy for being so emotionally invested in a fictional world, but as the wise Albus Dumbledore once said: “Of course it’s happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Note: Go to https://thecspn.com to see fellow Chronicle writer, Alexandra Lisa’s story on Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them!


Chapter 2: Sit at the table

Recently, I was asked to read a chapter from Sheryl Sandberg’s best selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for feminism, but I made the mistake of judging a book by its cover. I thought, ‘what will I read that I haven’t already heard before?’ Turns out, quite a bit.

Sheryl begins the chapter with an anecdote. As the COO of Facebook, she was charged with hosting a meeting of fifteen Silicon Valley executives to talk about the economy. One secretary arrived with his staff consisting
of four women. In the room of nearly all men, despite Sheryl’s attempts to include them, the women took their food last and sat off to the side of the room. The lesson here? “In addition to facing institutional obstacles, women face a battle from within.”

She then proceeds to another anecdote, this time revolving around a Harvard speech she attended, given by Dr. Peggy McIntosh. Here’s what she, and ultimately I, ended up learning:

“…many people, but especially women feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worth of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made.”

According to Sheryl, a man is more likely to attribute success to “his own innate qualities and skills”, whereas women (as well as their colleagues and the media) are quick to credit external factors to their achievements.

Anecdote #3 starts like this: “My insecurity began, as most insecurities do, in high school.”  Amen. You can probably guess how that goes. So I’ll skip to the end of the chapter to the actual life lessons like, “fake it till you feel it” (‘it’ being confidence) or “You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around.”

One of Sheryl’s concluding anecdotes recounts the time she gave a talk on gender issues to Facebook employees. Towards the end, she said she would only take two more questions. She ended up taking a lot more– but only from men. Why? When told the
y would be wrapping up, all the women put their hands down. Sheryl says, “Even though I was giving a speech on gender issues, I had been blind to one myself.”


According to Sheryl, “If we want a world with greater equality, we need to acknowledge that women are less likely to keep their hands up. We need institutions and individuals to notice and correct for this behavior by encouraging, promoting, and championing more women.” The truth in this statement revolves around the key words ‘institutions and individuals’. We can’t keep hoping that a few influential women like Sheryl Sandberg or Emma Watson (with her #HeForShe campaign) are enough to make a change.

You’d be surprised how many girls and women yearn to see themselves  “sitting at the table”. I know I do. So does Sheryl Sandberg.

“…now I know how to take a deep breath and keep my hand up. I have learned to sit at the table.” 


To Mars and Beyond

Advances in research and science are constantly taking us places. Our next stop? Mars. And its a one-way trip.
Orchestrated from the Netherlands, this production is complex and intimidating in innumerable ways. It’s a performance that will forever change life as we know it.

Founded in 2011, ‘Mars One’ is a non-profit organization created in hopes of establishing a permanent human colony on Mars by the late 2020’s.

In 2013, Mars One launched an astronaut selection program inviting persons of all nationalities to apply. The application process consists of four rounds, spanning over two years. At then end of it (which should be sometime this year), 24 individuals -six teams of four- will be selected for training.Training will last until the launch in 2026. Ability and patience to spend long periods of time in a remote area is the first and main thing tested. They will also learn to repair components of the habitat and rover as well as learn how to grown their own food in that habitat. They are also trained in medical procedures.

The plan is, from 2024 to 2025, six cargo units will have landed on a relatively ideal terrain. Before the first crew starts their journey, the life support system would have produced a breathable atmosphere of 0.7 bar pressure, 3000 liters of water and 120 kg of Oxygen that will be in storage. 

For more information about the timeline, click here: http://www.mars-one.com/mission/roadmap  


The astronauts who have signed up for this project are people like you and me. Remember: its a one-way trip. These are people with families, careers, healthy lifestyles and their whole lives ahead of them. They are sacrificing everything familiar and comfortable for the sake of science, discovery and the progression of mankind.  

So you might be thinking: Why would these people be willing to throw away their lives for this project? Hear it for yourselves…


About 15 years from now, all supplies and materials required (including the people), will have landed on Mars. But what happens next? 

The astronauts will be living in habitats. These are modular units comprising of multiple inflatable units… about 250 cubic meters per person. 

Then of course, is the suit. Naturally, the environment of Mars isn’t suitable for human life. Inhabitants will wear full body suit, similar to the ones worn to the moon. It will be flexible enough to allow the wearers to work and move around, yet provide adequate protection from the harsh temperatures and the thin, carbon dioxide rich air. 
Water, oxygen and food will be produced on the planet as sending these essentials from earth is out of the question. Water will be extracted from the soil, oxygen will be derived from splitting water into its constituents and food will be produced under artificial lighting.  
For further information and FAQ, click here: http://www.mars-one.com/faq 


What does this Mars One project mean for the future? Provided this mission is a success, this project opens up a variety of possibilities for mankind. 

A second planet may soon be in high demand, at the rate this one is deteriorating. The results of the project could be revolutionary in several fields, be it medical, agricultural, environmental, etc.
And of course, we can be part of the adventure too. Through donations and generally raising awareness we can do our part. 
This is definitely not science fiction anymore.
Explore the website, http://www.mars-one.com/ to learn more. For more videos, visit their YouTube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/user/MarsOneProject



An International Experience

2010 was an interesting year for me, to say the least. That was the year that my family packed up and moved to the other side of the world. To India. For the next four years.

Now you have to understand, to my ten year-old self, this was the end of the world as I knew it. Born and brought up in Ohio my whole life, to suddenly move to a place I hardly visited before (and even then, I was too young to remember it), was devaca637-indiastating. At the time, I had every misconception there was in the book about India.

To be fair, I was pretty young. And it seemed like nothing would go my way.

I had trouble adjusting at first. Often times I’d come home from my new school, in tears. Everything was foreign, from how people dressed, to the color of the road. But a few months in, I had quickly adapted to the way things went. Not that I particularly liked it.

I didn’t exactly love the first school that I went to. It was a big international school, with children of all kinds of ethnic backgrounds. The actual learning itself took some getting used to. Teachers had some unconventional (well, to me) methods of going about things and the students seemed to know what they were doing. But I had troubles ranging from taking notes in class to knowing the latest sports teams. And let’s not forget all the pre-teen drama. But, when in Rome…

The third and fourth year were definitely better for me. Having switched schools, I was now in a smaller environment. The student body consisted of about three hundred and fifty students. Most of my classmates were in the same position as I was. Slowly as time went by, I realized whether I lived here or there, the inner-workings of a thirteen year-old mind didn’t change. Everyone was obsessing about One Direction or wondering when the next Harry Potter movie would release. The ‘unconventional’ things turned into the norm. I made some life-long friends and got to see family more often.

I learned so much as the years zipped by. And now I’m back. Part of me likes that. But part of me misses my home in India. There, I evolved into the person I am today. It is a huge part of who I am. It’s an experience I’m eternally grateful for and wouldn’t trade for the world.




Lending a Helping Hand

Sometimes we don’t realize just how lucky we are to have the things that we do. And I’m not just talking about material things.

For most of the Nepali-Bhutanese refugee children that have come over to Ohio from their country, things have been rough. From being in a totally alien environment to not even being able to properly comprehend the English language, they can use all the help they can get. Which is why I’ve joined an initiative to help tutor these children, to hopefully make their lives easier, here in the US.

Every Wednesday, for a couple of hours, we gather in a local library. The children usually bring school work, especially in areas that they need our help with. Slowly, concepts are explained, problems are worked out and their mind’s fill with information. Of course, we learn too. All the time.

But it’s not an easy challenge. The problems faced are mainly communication related. The language barrier can sometimes be tough to overcome. But with good resources and skills, we manage. We also have to remember that we’re dealing with adolescents here. These kids are just like us. The occasional immaturity (from both parties), teenage attitudes and the desire to fit in are all factors.

And when the holidays roll around, we have drives to help get gifts (and other necessities!) to them. We jolt into the holiday spirit by singing carols and eating cookies. The summer is the time to help them focus on things other than school work and expand their knowledge.

It’s a lot of fun. I love the experience of getting to work with them as well as all of the volunteers who help out. Its amazing what you can do in just a couple of hours. At the end of it all, we feel satisfied with our work and feel like it’s completely worthwhile when we see the proud looks on their faces.


The Dress Mess

The dress.

Oh, don’t tell me you haven’t heard of it. I don’t exaggerate when I say, the whole world has. You might know it as simply ‘the dress’ or ‘white and gold or blue and black’ or even ‘the dress that broke the internet’. More often than not, people will know what you’re talking about.

Friday morning (before the bell even rang), this debate was up and roaring throughout the halls of school.3012a-the2bdress

Next thing you know, teachers are leading debates in classes, polls are being taken, and the picture is trending. It was then I realized that this wasn’t someone’s homecoming picture gone wrong.

It took all of half an hour for the internet to work its magic. Celebrity tweets, arguments on popular news channels and scientific explanations only helped expand its popularity. Amazing, isn’t it? How something so seemingly trivial becomes one of the biggest yet transitory discussions on the internet.

What are the professionals saying?

Everyone sees things differently. Individual wavelengths don’t have color so in the case of the dress, some of us interpret those wavelengths as blue and black and others as white and gold.

What’s probably got the world so worked up about this dress is the vast difference in colors that we are perceiving. It’s incredible that, in reality, the dress is actually blue and black but a majority of people see the white and gold.


This has gotten so much attention that major companies, food chains and stores have used ‘the dress’ to advertise themselves.

Personally, I see white and gold. To me the black is non-existent. But ask around (if you haven’t already). I’m sure you’ll get some pretty weird answers.

But from past experience, this isn’t going to last for long. Sooner or later, the dress will inevitably be travelling down the same path as #alexfromtarget or the last iPhone.