Leisure Literature: The Underground Railroad

When I can find extra moments, there is always a list of books I want to read. Some I anticipate for months, some for years before I find the time to get to them, and some of them live up to the hype and some don’t. Leisure Literature is a book review column that details my thoughts on my recent readings.

I saw someone reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead on the plane, and apparently I had unconsciously heard of it before. I put it on my Goodreads list and did some more research; apparently it was one of the big hits of 2016. By chance, I walked into my school library one morning and saw it on the featured shelf, so I checked it out. (Sidenote: The librarian told me I was the first one to do so, hooray.)

The initial “appeal point” of this book was supposed to be that the Underground Railroad is, in fact, a underground railroad. However, the book is much more than that. Cora, a slave on the extremist Randall plantation makes a harrowing escape through many different locations, experiencing basically everything America has to offer a black person during her time. Each place has a different lesson for her as she seeks freedom, all ultimately pointing to the fact that there may never be true freedom.

Somehow, I read this book at an extremely timely point during school and life in general; I am in both US and World history at school, and we were not only talking about the treatment of blacks, free and otherwise, in US history (N. Carolina), but also the Atlantic slave trade in World (S. Carolina). Even Mingo’s policy (Indiana) reminded me of Trump’s policy towards the refugee crisis. Even though The Underground Railroad is technically fiction, it really supplemented my history classes in school, and my history classes supplemented reading this book.

Some of my favorite things: the different perspectives (Stevens, Mabel, Ridgeway, etc.), the way Whitehead was able to write Ridgeway so dreadfully fearsome (I legitimately jumped each time he appeared), the wide range of characters and opinions, the difference between slow and fast and how it’s interesting regardless of pace, leaving parts of the story unexplained and coming back to it later, and how tactfully death and the gruesome are easy to read and passed over as nothing (because that’s all the room for sensitivity people had back then).

I think it’s an interesting side discussion to talk about whether historical books like this that truthfully document how racism has worked in the past contributes to the subconscious racism many Americans experience today, or if it is a necessary insight into our past. I don’t deny that it is important to learn how we used to be, but I wonder if that unintentionally contributes to how we are now (rather than its ‘intended effect’ of motivating us to be different than we were).

Overall, The Underground Railroad is really well-researched and touches on so many different aspects of the history of African Americans. I looked forward to reading this very much each night with my scant bit of spare time, which tells me that it is a good book (even though I can’t exactly pin my finger on why). I can sense that there is even more to glean from this book if I read it again.

Leisure Literature: The Underground Railroad

Tech Toolbox: Lightshot

I will never be able to truly consider myself well-versed in technology; very few people have seen it all. But I do love searching out the best I can find, and once I find it, I stick with it. In my Tech Toolbox I share my favorite software, applications, and occasionally gadgets.

One of my goals in this column is to find the best software for specific, ordinary purposes, and share that. An example of a staple any computer user needs is screenshot tools. Most computers come equipped without a good way to handle screenshots; the image copies into the clipboard and just kind of…is there. Pasting images isn’t compatible with most places, and to save it into a file is tedious. (Or maybe I’m ignorant about how most people do this.) If you want to upload it to the internet, that’s another step.

(Admittedly, screenshots are less relevant these days, since these days pictures are taken with phones and those have countless ways to share with friends. People even photograph their computer screens. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

Anyways, I use screenshots frequently, especially when programming, so I really appreciate this tool, Lightshot, which basically streamlines everything related to screenshotting on the computer into one beautiful, free tool.

It’s a bit too meta to screenshot the screenshot tool to add pictures here, but here are some of the things it can do:

  • Use a selection tool to choose what part of the screen you want to capture (easy corner-draggers)
  • Annotate the screenshot with pens, lines, rectangles, text, and more, in any color you want
  • Upload to prntscr.com for free and instantly get a shareable link (if you create an account, you can keep everything you’ve uploaded together
  • Save file to computer
  • Send screenshot to the printer
  • Copy to clipboard
  • Share to social media or search for similar images on Google

There’s really not much to say. Lightshot is simple, yet has everything one could need, has a UI that is neither ugly nor overdone. Et sequitur I recommend it highly.

Download the application for any OS here, and check out the general site/generally file host for free here.

Tech Toolbox: Lightshot

Two Years

An egotistic chronicling of achievements and ‘done-that’s

  • Saw PTX in concert! (May 12)
  • Read 23 books over the summer (June 17 – August 28)
  • Ran 262 miles as summer training for fall XC (June 17 – August 28)
  • Knit an entire dress for my Halloween costume (October 1 – 30)
  • Made a XC scrapbook covering 5th grade until 11th grade (November)
  • Knit 24 headbands (and other birthday gifts throughout the fall) (December)
  • Put 1400 roses on a float in the Rose Parade (December 31)
  • Made at least 3 cool arts
  • Recorded 3 pieces of music
  • Wrote a bunch of essays and drabbles
  • Opened up the wormhole that is Facebook
  • Definitely watched more movies this year than my entire life combined

People in my year

  • Mama
  • Dada
  • Rin
  • run for fun
    • TD, AP, JP, VH, DK, SK, SS, BS, and more – conquered and melted together
    • JR, AT, EC – carpool squad
    • RQ, JB, SS, JS – my favorite new friends
    • AL, OH, AD’A, MP, DH, BD, AB, NU, SS, JS – the crazy freshmen, also my favorite
    • JS, ML, TG, SK, DK, HB – I pretend I’m part of you, also my favorite
    • LS, TL, RW, NC, CW, AVG, MF, MK, EH, EB, AC, VS, GK, TD, AP, SS, BS, KS, AU, and all the rest – cool people, also my favorite
  • JP, JN, I guess
  • JS, SS, RQ – again, because we talk
  • MF, JQ – again, because you make me laugh
  • RC, JP – ?
  • AW
  • JD
  • VS – on and on
Two Years

I Have A Problem With The Nation’s #1 High School

Folks, my mind. Except also about college. New Year’s post to follow, sometime Soon™ not that long after the actual new year.

Just Angela Things

While this post features TJ, it is by no means specific to TJ.

Almost two years ago, I graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. In another two years, my younger brother will do the same.

Me and TJ, we’ve got history. TJ is where I had my first slow dance, learned to drive a car, and once got chased down the chem hall by an eleven-year-old supergenius with a roller backpack and the blessing of Satan. TJ also happens to be Newsweek’s #1 high school in the United States of America. I know, right? You’d think an institution like that would learn to keep its child prodigies in check.

Anyway, I have something to say about this school:

Something is wrong.

Something is very, very wrong.

And it’s not getting better.

Flash back to my freshman year. I’m volunteering at Techstravaganza, an annual STEM activity fair for elementary-…

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I Have A Problem With The Nation’s #1 High School