The Magical World of Pottermore

by Madeline

______________

I was a “late addition” to the Harry Potter fan club. I started reading them in 7th grade, and ever since, I’ve been hooked. Like millions of other people, I was sad to go and sit in the movie theater to watch Harry, Ron and Hermione battle it out with Deatheaters for the last time on the big screen.  I, like many others, searched the Internet endlessly after the last movie aired, hoping for some kind of sign that J.K. Rowling would continue to expand the world of Hogwarts. My wish was granted on July 31 of last year, when the word “Pottermore” appeared as a trending topic on Twitter.

I discovered that it was a new website, created by J.K. Rowling and Sony. It was the beginning of a new interactive way to read the Harry Potter books, with new content written by J.K. Rowling. After reading up on it, I found that there would be 1,000,000 invitations sent to those lucky enough to find “The Magical Quill” on various Harry Potter related websites from July 31st to August 6th. I made it my goal that summer to be one of those million people. Since the book series was created in Great Britain, naturally the time frame at which the “Magical Quill” location clues were released was in Great Britain Time, which meant I had to wake up at 3 am to get onto the site. It wasn’t easy. I stared at a refresher page for about an hour before I was finally given the clue to the “Magical Quill” location.

I was one of the lucky million who got early access to Pottermore. I received an email containing my Hogwarts letter in August, that contained my username and password, and I immediately signed on and became a new member. Just like the book series, as a new student I received a wand and I was sorted into one of the four houses (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw Hufflepuff and Slytherin). To do so, I was prompted with a quick multiple-choice quiz. Every new member is given this quiz. Afterwards, I was brought to the main page. I was stunned by the beautiful graphics. During the beta test, there was no sound on the site, but now there is really nice background music, similar to what was heard in on the movie soundtrack.

The thing I was most excited about was the new interactive reading. J.K Rowling partnered with SONY to create amazing graphics and illustrations of her first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Each new page gives a summary of a portion of the book, as well as an interactive graphic that moves things and has hidden objects for you to find. Included in this interactive storybook is brand new content from JK Rowling about various characters. It was really interesting to read more about characters and the origins of how the world of Harry Potter was created.

Along with many other similarities, the site also has different ways for users to earn house points, which are counted in the “great hall” section of the site. There is also a common room, where users in the same house can comment and share their own thoughts about Pottermore. This is a great place to show off your house pride! House points can be earned by making potions and participating in Wizard Duels.

While you read, you will find different objects that can be used in the other parts of the site, like potion making, where users are able to brew different potions, like a Cure for Boils or a sleeping draft. These potions are made in real time, which can be a little bit time consuming, as some potions take up to an hour or more to create. It doesn’t take that much time to add the ingredients, but waiting for the potion to be complete can take a while. While you’re waiting, you can go over to the Wizard Duel section, and compete against other users to win house points. The Wizard duel system is still a little bit glitch, and there has been some times where the site has had to close it due to maintenance. As of right now, the object is to type a specific letter of the spell that you are trying to cast when the letter lights up on the screen. The more accurate you are, the more points you can earn. The person with the most points earns 5 house points for their house.

You should also check out is Diagon Alley, where you can purchase all of the ingredients that you need for potion making. This store uses the same currency, (Galleons) as the Harry Potter books. You can earn Galleons randomly when reading the interactive stories.

Another fantastic addition to Pottermore is the release of eBooks, which can be purchased and downloaded onto any eReader device (Kindle, Nook). Pottermore is the first place to have Harry Potter eBooks, and I was very happy to finally have the completed collection on my Kindle.

The website is now open to everyone, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the only interactive story that is available on Pottermore, but there are rumors that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second book, is set to be released soon!

_________________

A Westminster Dog Show Experience

by Madeline

_______________

Dogs are considered man’s best friend. Their only purpose in life is to give undivided love and attention to their masters. This is why, after boasting about their dog’s capabilities, a group of men in 1877 decided to create a club which showcases their dog’s looks, and abilities. Thus the Westminster Breeding Association was born.  This club, named after a popular Manhattan hotel, started as a small group who would gather to tell tales of their shooting successes and their dog’s achievements. In the beginning it was just a kennel that raised Pointer dogs for hunting, but it soon grew one of the largest dog competition communities in the United States.

The association’s first major event was a dog show in Philadelphia, and the show was such a success that the members of the association decide to hold their own dog show to compare their dogs. The association is today dubbed “The Westminster Kennel Club. This club rapidly expanded into a worldwide pastime. Thousands gather together each year at the Madison Square Garden in New York City to watch this two day event, and hundreds of proud breeders and handlers flock to this show, eager to share their prized show dogs to the world.

This year the Westminster Dog show held their 137th national dog show competition. There were over 173 different breeds and over 2,500 dogs in attendance. Each breed has specific qualifications that it must meet, and a judge is assigned to certain breeds, and they have to study and familiarize themselves with these breeds, and then they are able to judge them. Most breeds have certain requirements regarding their height, weight, coat color, tail, ears, and facial structure. The judges also pay close attention to the dog’s temperament, how they interact with the other dogs, and their human handlers. This is essential for combining the best qualities for breeding.  These are high standards and only the crème de la crème get to compete for the highest title, “Best in Show”.

Before the show begins, spectators are allowed to go into the grooming/set up area, where breeders and handlers prepare their dogs for show. Definitely make sure to stop by the poodle station, to watch some amazing groomers in action! Also, remember to bring a camera. You’ll meet some pretty rare breeds, some of which are new to the Westminster this year. Including; the American English Coonhound, which can be seen competing in the hound group, the Cesky Terrier, of the Terrier group, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, of the Herding group, the Finnish Lapphund, also of the Herding Group,  the Norwegian Lundehund, or the “Puffin Dog”, in the Non-Sporting Group,  and last but not least, the Xoloitxcuintli, or the “Show-Low” dog, also in the Non-Sporting Group. Even though these dogs didn’t win big this year, the fact that they were newly reconized as breeds by the AKC has given them a lot of publicity!

This two day competition focuses on narrowing down the dogs and categorizing them in seven different groups based on their breed’s traits; Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, Working, Toy, Hound, and herding groups. These groups are then further narrowed down into best of breed, and various other titles. Then, the top seven dogs compete for the title of Best In Show. This title is world renowned, and this year a four year old Pekingese, “Ch. Palacegarden Malachy” was given the title. 

Overall, the Westminster dog show is an event for old and young, both two legged and four legged. It is a great family event, and is also broadcasted on television on the CBS station. So for all dog lovers, this is a must see! The 2013 Westminster Dog Show is set to be held some time in February, so keep your eyes pealed for updated information!

________________

Kitten Season is Fast Approaching

by Madeline

____________________

During the months of July and August of 2011, I had the opportunity to foster two newborn kittens for the Monmouth County SPCA. They came into the shelter flea infested, and dehydrated after someone picked them up off the side of the road. The vets at the shelter estimated that they were about three days old. Because they were so young, I ended up bottle-feeding them, every two hours around the clock, for about two weeks. As the days went on, I watched these babies grow into playful kittens. Unfortunately, one of the kittens got sick, and he did not survive. The other one however, grew up to be a healthy kitten, and was eventually adopted. Fostering was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences that I’ve ever done, and the SPCA is always looking for potential foster parents!

Now that spring is here, the local animal shelters are beginning to prepare for their busiest time of their “Kitten Season.” Between the months of March and August, there will be an overflow of kittens coming in and out through the SPCA doors. Many of these babies are too young to be away from their mothers, so if the shelter has a cat who already has a litter of kittens that are close to the orphans in age, they will try to see if the cat will accept them as her own, otherwise, the staff will ask one of their volunteers, or take them in themselves, to bottle feed and hand raise these babies.

Fostering is a huge commitment. Depending on the age of the kittens and the size of the litter, you may be up all night for the first couple of weeks in order to take care of these little ones. Kittens under two weeks of age have to be fed every two hours around the clock, and this can be time consuming, but there is a huge reward for your time and effort–unconditional love and companionship. These kittens will stay with their foster parents until they are at least 6 weeks of age, which is when they will go back to the shelter to get their first round of immunization shots, and an overall health check. When they are at least 8 weeks old, and over two pounds, the kittens will return to the shelter and be spayed/neutered and they will be put up for adoption. It is a really rewarding experience, and if you are interested in becoming a foster parent, please contact your local animal shelter for more information about what type of foster program they have!

_________________-

Monmouth County SPCA Adoptables

by Madeline

__________________

Each year, thousands of dogs and cats go in and out of the Monmouth County SPCA doors. These few however, have been at the shelter for quite some time, and they are all hoping that you’ll share their stories in the hope that they will get adopted soon! If you ‘d like more information on any of these dogs, or to see more available dogs and cats, please go to monmouthcountyspca.org.

Brody

Hi there, my name is Brody! I’m a two-year-old bulldog/terrier mix and I am eagerly awaiting my forever home. I’ve been at the shelter for a long time, and even though I really love it here, playing with all of my doggy friends, as well some great human volunteers, I really need someone who can give me the space and exercise that I need. Recently, a couple of wonderful volunteers took me to Sandy Hook, and I really enjoyed both the sand and the car ride! I am a very outgoing guy, and I enjoy playing fetch, especially with tennis balls! I’m getting really good at learning how to walk nicely using an Ez-Walk harness, and I’m quickly picking up that sitting and waiting to be pet gets me a treat! I have made great friends at the shelter, but many of them are finding new homes and leaving me behind… but I’m always eager to meet new ones, especially you! I am a good boy who needs a loving active home. Why don’t you come visit me?

__________________

Hi there! My name’s Tyrus, and I’m a one year old terrier mix. I’m quite nervous in the shelter, and I really want to get to my forever home soon. Even though I’m doing a lot better now then when I first came into the shelter, I am still eagerly awaiting the day when I’ll find my forever family. I am a very active young boy, and I really enjoy playing outside with some of my volunteer friends. I’ve gotten really good at “fetch” and I love tennis balls. I’m a smart dude, I know “sit”, “down” and “come”. I’ve learned to walk nicely on a leash using an Ez-Walk harness, and I really like it when volunteers take me for walks. One of my favorite things to do is play with some of my dog friends at the shelter. I LOVE to run, and would be a perfect running buddy with a bit of training. Will you become my forever friend?

___________________

The Tower Players Prepare for “Jekyll and Hyde”

by Madeline

_______________

It takes a lot to put together a play, such as costumes, scenes, lighting, and music.   It also takes the work of many people, including cast, crew and the one person who puts everything together, the director.  Each year, the RFH Tower Players puts on a spring musical production which includes  superb vocals and beautiful sets, all preformed and designed by RFH students with the assistance of a few teachers and volunteers.

For their 2012 production, the Tower Players will present Jekyll and Hyde.  The musical, originally created by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn,  is based on the 1886 novella by Robert Louis Stevenson.  It takes place in London during the late 1800s, and is about a doctor (Dr. Jekyll) who experiments with human personality and creates a murderous doppelgänger, Edward Hyde.

This play has been preformed on both Broadway and local theaters. The Tower Players’s production of Jekyll and Hyde will be performed on March 23 to the 25th at 7:30pm.

Seven years ago, the Count Basie Theater, located in Red Bank, started the Basie Awards, a ceremony celebrating the hard work and dedication of the teachers, directors, and students involved in high school productions. Last year, there were over 25 schools nominated from Monmouth County. Actors and tech crew members are always excited for this coveted award.  The RFH students really anticipate these award ceremonies, and have won many in the past. This year’s award ceremony will be on May 23.

The Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards is another ceremony in which the RFH drama department is nominated. This ceremony highlights many components of the production of high school plays, including sets, costumes, actors, directors, tech crew, and others. The Rising Star award is a state-wide competition, based off of the well-known Tony Awards, which is Broadway’s theater award ceremony. The Rising Star awards also includes five scholarships, which go to students who plan to study theater in college, as well as one for a student who aspires to work with the technical aspects of the theater.

These talented students and teachers deserve recognition for all of their hard work and dedication to the arts. Each year, students stay after school and come in on the weekends to rehearse. They spend countless hours memorizing lines, adjusting spotlights, and painting props. The Tower Players are involved in a verity of award shows that showcase these students’ accomplishments.  The Tower Review wishes them the best of luck this upcoming performance season.

_______________

Lego Lady: The Newest Edition to the Lego Family

by Madeline

_______________

A cutesy wootsie little town, nestled between Star Wars and Ninjas, Heart Lake City, invaded households on January 1st. For girls who want to add a bit more imagination and color to their Lego worlds, the Lego Company has created Lego Friends, a new product designed for girls ages 5 and up. This new set includes a house, a salon, a café, a veterinary clinic, a horse academy, and many other town-like buildings.

Most of the new sets created for this Lego Friends collection are compatible with the original Lego pieces, and the lady figures can also be used with original Lego play-sets.  However, there is one major difference to this new girly town when compared to other Lego sets like Harry Potter and Star Wars.

Lego Friends; Olivia's House

Studies show that girls typically play with toys in the first person, and they tell a story as they play, while boys tend to play in the third person, and they are more set on building and following a picture or instructions then actually making up different scenarios. As a result, when you open the boxes of these new Lego products, most of the pieces are already assembled.

Yes, there are still little blocks for those of you who are just buying the packs for the six new colors, including a pale purple, green, blue and a few other “girly” colors; but Lego has specifically altered the design of these new packs so that girls do not have to spend hours trying to figure out how to build a house.  You just have to add in a bit of accents, and if you want expand on the structures. These new sets come with plenty of accessories to customize the buildings, but the main point of this collection is for girls who would rather tell a story with their Legos then sit and push hundreds of pieces together.

Lego is also planning to introduce 29 lady figures with this new city. The first five to be released, Mia, Emma, Andrea, Stephanie, and Olivia, all come with their own sets that are related to their background and personality. Since 2007, Lego has been closely studying girls from all around the world, those who are living in various demographics, so they can create these lady figures to represent a little bit of everyone.

A Lego Comparison

Brad Wieners, author of an article about these new Lego Friends, stated, “Lego confirmed that girls favor role play, but they also love to build- just not the same way as boys. Whereas boys tend to be “linear”- building rapidly, even against the clock, to finish a kit so it looks just like what’s on the box- girls prefer “stops along the way,” and to begin storytelling and rearranging.”

So look out for these colorful new sets that filled Lego shelves in the US on January 1st 2012. They sure seem to be a big success!

_________________

Information: Article by Brad Wieners in Bloomberg Business Magazine (December issue)

Pictures from:

_________________

A Vampire Series… Without the Sparkle

by Madeline

_______________

Does the plotline “two guys pining for one special girl” sound familiar?  What if I add that at least one of them’s a vampire?  No, I’m not talking about Twilight, but rather an older series inspired by L.J. Smith’s book series, The Vampire Diaries.

The Vampire Diaries has become increasingly popular after the release of its CW’s TV series. However, this vampire love triangle was created almost ten years prior to Twilight’s release. Instead of a mind-reading sparkling vampire and a so-called “werewolf” fighting for a shallow, depressing, 17-year-old brunette with no personality; Stefan and Damon Salvatore, two vampire brothers, compete for Elena Gilbert’s heart. She’s the fairytale to Bella Swan’s darkest nightmares. She’s blonde, beautiful, and has a personality of a lioness to boot.

The Vampire Diaries has significantly grown in popularity with the outbreak of vampire-obsessed readers; which has benefited the series tremendously.  In fact, it finally gets the recognition it deserves. With a fresh conflict in each book, from crazed newly turned werewolves to an “original” vampire, this series has everything Twilight lacks. Yes, I guess the Volturi, the original vampire family mocks this same scenario, but with much less action and suspense. I found the scenes in which the Volturi to be overatted, and not entertaining at all. I originally thought that these century-old vampires were going to bring some kind of excitement to this story, but I was unsatisfied with their interactions with Bella and Edward in New Moon.

The Vampire Diaries’s “Original” on the other hand, Klaus, was a bloodthirsty killer, who possessed teenage girls and killed quite a few people in Fell’s Church, a small fictional civil war town in Virginia, in which the Vampire Diaries takes place. There is far more action and more depth to the overall plot of this series within each situation that the protagonists have to face.

The TV connection, aired on the CW channel on Thursdays at 8:00, is very different from the books, but just as captivating. I highly recommend this book for all Twilighters and those who don’t want to waste time reading thousands of pointless adjectives.

No Sparkling Vampires Allowed on this production set. These vamps stick with some of the more original tales. Burning in the sunlight, immortality, drinking human blood, mind control… typical Dracula relatives.

The Vampire Diaries, comprised of 7 books, is full of romance, action, and a whole lot of crazy nail biter cliffhangers.  I highly recommend this to all non-Twi-hards, and those who are just tired of reading about shiny-obsessed 17-year-old girls who live with their fathers in small, rainy towns.

_______________

_______________

Black Friday: What’s the Big Deal?!

by Madeline

_______________

The hype over holiday shopping has always been outrageous, but it seems to get worse every year.  Now, stores are putting out holiday decorations the day after Halloween, completely dismissing Thanksgiving. Stores start blasting holiday music, and the toy isles are filled with pleading children and stressed out parents.

When children turn on the TV, toy commercials ring throughout the house. If I hear the pillow pet song one more time… I think my ears will start to bleed.  Emails are filled with green and red advertisements begging parents to buy the latest and greatest gadgets for their children. Every store claims to have that great deal, but do you really have to of wake up at midnight and drive in packed streets and wait in front of a mall just to get that extra 25% off?

After all of the turkey sandwiches have been made, people set out for the biggest shopping day of the year, known as “Black Friday.” Yes, you might get lucky and find that great deal, but is it really worth losing your life or endangering others?  2008 was one of the worst Black Friday’s in history, leaving two men shot in a Toys-R-Us parking lot after their significant others fought over a purchase. Similarly, a 32-year-old man  working in a Wal-Mart was trampled to death when the crowds literally ripped the doors off of the hinges in order to enter the store 5 minutes before it opened.

Someone was finally smart enough to say, “Hey why don’t we just have these sales online?”  Chances are, people won’t be maimed by clicking a few buttons and having their presents shipped directly to their houses.

So instead of waiting outside in the cold and dark, grab your laptop, some hot chocolate, and keep your fingers poised and ready to use that refresh button.

_______________

Bulldawg Poetry

by various RFH writers

_______________________

This is a Puppy Mill
by Madeline

You open the barn door, letting in a blast of sunlight.
It hurts my eyes and I whimper.
We all start barking, pleading for attention.
You check the babies first, to make sure that they are all still breathing.
Then you walk along the cages, dropping in pieces of table scraps.
We are furious animals, tearing at pieces of food, sometimes getting each other.
The smell is rotten, our coats are ruined,
Many of us don’t have any fur at all
We scratch and we itch,
We whine and we cry
And still we get no relief.

This is a puppy mill.

I hear the click of the food being thrown in the metal dish,
I waddle over to it.
Empty.
The others have, and left nothing for me.
I slurp a bit of murky green water, a
I try to find a clean spot to lay my matted head;
but there is no such place.

This is a Puppy Mill.

My babies have been gone for a week now,
I don’t know where they went.
I never know.
I am grabbed with greasy hands,
Roughly placed into another pen
I am scared.
________________________________

Bye Bye, Books, Hello, Kindle

by Madeline

__________________________

Finished that book already?  Drat.  It’s back to the library or the book store.  Wait… why not forget about the heavy, bulky hardcover books and switch to the 21st century?

The breakout of eReaders since 2007- has been overwhelming.  They allow users to access thousands of their favorite books, magazines, and newspaper articles with just a few clicks.  There are many different models to choose from, including the Nook, Kindle, and even the iPad.  However, I highly recommend Amazon’s Kindle for your reading pleasures.

The Amazon Kindle

The Kindle is known for its lightweight, sleek, and glare-protectant shell.  On the inside, this electronic device exceeds my expectations.  It takes less than 60 seconds to download a book, and within minutes, you can dive right into newly published bestsellers, or even a classic from the 1800s. Amazon has very reasonable prices, most books ranging from 99 cents to 15 dollars. It also offers a variety of books for free.  Several of these books are either self-published or mass produced classics.  You will also find that books that are required in schools are priced lower, which is another benefit and a way to avoid end-of-the-year fines.

There are two minor drawbacks of the Kindle.   One is the lack of page numbers.  The system that the Kindle uses to mark the page of the book is confusing, and many times I find myself struggling to figure out which page I’m on in the novel. Yes, it does tell you how far you’ve read, but it’s displayed through a small progress bar at the bottom of the screen, and the numbers are given based on your actual location in the book. I find this a bit cumbersome, and makes it harder to use for school reading assignments.  Amazon is planning to release software that will remedy this.  However, it will only apply to the newer books, and it may not work for some.

Super sleak and lightweight

The second drawback is the absence of backlighting.  Yes, the Kindle is glare-proof, so reading outside is a lot easier, but it is impossible to read without exterior lighting. I find this a bit annoying when I want to read before bed.  However, it can be easily fixed with the assistance of a reading light. You can also purchase a case for the Kindle that includes a small reading light, which is great for when you’re out of the house.

Amazon is continuing to make changes to the Kindle, and has recently released a new version. This one is a bit smaller, and does not include a physical keyboard like the previous versions. It seems to be a bit more compact, and it can do just about everything that the Kindle Keyboard can do.

Amazon’s newest and most advanced version, the Kindle Fire, was recently released on November 15th.  Based upon initial reviews, this one will be the best one yet!  Consumers have over 18 million movies, songs, books, magazines, TV shows, and many popular games and applications at their fingertips.   The new web browser, Amazon Silk, is supposedly the fastest yet.

A huge bonus of the Kindle fire? Color.  And, finally, a backlight, which many have eagerly been waiting for!

The Kindle is fast, lightweight, and very user friendly; I highly recommend this device for all readers.   Amazon has just released new versions of the Kindle, from the Kindle Touch, to the Kindle Fire. The price range will be more flexible, and they will have a model for just about everyone!

____________________________

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.