Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sounds of College

This morning I woke up and decided I needed to do a post about college life; and I had no idea what to do, and then it hit me: The sounds I hear in a day of college.

So, I'll list notable sounds that stuck in my mind today. And I'm using a list just to get the sounds out there. Hopefully by the end my mind will have congealed a few sparse ideas into a clever conclusion. If not, you get to a personal, audio-tour of my day.

*A whole room of people studiously typing on keyboards. Seriously, there was no other noise in the room for like ten minutes. The teacher commented how cool it sounded.

*Guy singing while playing guitar. Some guy was walking around Red Square with a guitar and singing. Couldn't tell the song, but it perked up my day a bit just seeing/hearing him.

*Everyone talking on phones. Just a huge scramble of conversations between classes. Felt very ethereal and white-noise-y when I decided not to focus on any and just hear the chaos.

*Musical bricks on the way to class. Most of campus has laid brick for walkways, and some of them shift when people walk, causing a clinking sound. One area is notable for it, and so it's constantly clinking between classes.

*Bikes flying by. There's a hill I walk to go to the cafeteria, and everyone zips by on the road on their bikes, whizz-clicketing away.

*Hum and buzz of conversation. I like that drone/hum in the air when a lot of people are talking all at once, like in a cafeteria. It feels energetic and alive.

*Soft singing. During a candlelight gathering, a group of people started to softly and somberly sing.

*Group of guys celebrating. A few rooms in my hall got yards and yards of ethernet cables and LAN-lined their XBoxes together in a big match of Halo. The victors ran down the hall yelling and jumped into the room of the people they beat.

*Doors at night. Our dorm doors are very heavy, and if you aren't careful, they slam shut. Of course, when you hear other doors slam, it sounds like deep thumps up and down the hall.

*Trains at night. Like I said before, I'm always hearing trains everyday, but at different times. It's something I missed about Santa Fe, but didn't truly realize it until I started hearing them more consistently. nothing. Maybe next time. Good night!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Book Week, Again!

[Reposted from my other blog, Seattle Whispers]

So, this year Banned Book Week crept up on me, so I didn't prepare anything big or week-long like I did last year. But, I can still write a little something about it on here to bring it into everyone's view.

I was recently reading Ray Bradbury's A Pleasure To Burn, which is a collection of short stories and novellas with themes, stories, and characters that eventually led up to his classic, Fahrenheit 451. In this book, there's a line that eventually came up, evolved, in F-451, and it goes like this:

"That was the year I came to class at the start of the new semester and found only one student  to sign up for Drama from Aeschylus to O'Neill. You see? How like a beautiful statue of ice it was, melting in the sun. I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them. And then the Government, seeing how advantageous it was to have people reading only about passionate lips and the fist in the stomach, circled the situation with their fire-eaters."
-- Faber, Fahrenheit 451, p. 79

 In the story, all books beyond tabloid magazines are banned, but what Bradbury says mid-way through the book is that before that, people eventually stopped reading and being curious altogether, and then the Government made laws to keep it that way.

This struck a resonating chord with me.

I've been writing for a newspaper the past year, and I know this niche is slowly disappearing. I was working for a library, and people have been saying how digital books on Kindle and the iPhone will make printed copies obsolete. I refuse to believe this; books will always remain, maybe not as plentiful in the future though.

In my college English class, we're studying how people are flocking to the internet and digital communication for social connections and news. In a way, it is dealing with the issue that Bradbury was trying to warn us all about: the disconnection from the printed word, and the strongly-bonded sense of imagination and curiosity with those words.

So, for this Banned Book Week, remember how significant written words are, and pick up/check out an old classic that you love, and be thankful you are still able to snuggle up with it and enjoy the story.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

College: Week One

This week I have learned about the true seductiveness of temptation. Almost sounds redundant, but it's true.

This week was my first full week of college. Technically. Even though my first classes started on Wednesday, I've been living on campus and experiencing college for a full week. So there.

And speaking of roommate and I are tempted by a few things already, including Halo: Reach, snack/junk food, and taking breaks from school work. And we have both given in to these temptations. A lot.

Although, we've both been able to get each other to finish homework, even if it was so we could play Reach online for hours. Some motivation is better than no motivation.

I myself have found and given in to another (cliché) temptation: Going home for a weekend [and getting laundry done at home].

It so happens this weekend was my friend John's family's annual cider day, and I just couldn't miss it. So, I packed a vacation bag to go home (an odd thought/feeling), and then worked with apples all day yesterday. Picking, washing, grinding, pressing, straining, pouring, and finally enjoying all-natural cider. Can't be beat, and it was a relaxing (and productive) weekend. Now, back to school!

Also, here are photos of my dorm, for those that have been wanting a taste.

My side of the dorm. The lofted bed adds a lot of room.

Another view of my side, with more of my work zone shown.

An angle looking out of my window, overlooking Bellingham Bay.

Pretty much exact same view, but at night. I love these orange-laden fog banks at night.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Creative Communicating - Roommates

When you live somewhere, you tend to communicate with those around you out of necessity, comfort, and social behavior. And to figure out each other. With roommates, this talking, with or without words, tends to be immediate. Ground rules need to be established (or gradually learned), especially about sharing things, when to fall asleep/wake up, bringing guests to the room, sexiling, hanging out, etc.

Other than that, the communication between flatmates can be sparse, on-the-fly, and second- or even third-handed. I have one solution.

Recently I MacGyvered a simple device to help with one of the levels of communication with a roommate. Whenever I'd come back to my room and my roommate wasn't there, I never knew quite where he was, other than the ambiguous, "out." So, I decided to make an interactive message system for the inside of the door. You just place your name next to where you'll be.

I dub it the Status Board*.

If I find the time/parts, I want to rig a clock to look like my Status Board, but you move a designated hand to "times," which will be substituted with similar phrases. Yes, I know this is from Harry Potter, but mine won't be magic-driven or self-updating.

Also, I'll soon have a system in place for the outside of the door, with coded signs so that we know if the other person is sleeping--and thus needing to enter quieter than usual--or not enter at all because of being'd all be coded because seriously, the "sock on the door" signal is a little conspicuous and scandalous.

Another way to keep up-to-date with your roommate is texting. I use it the most when I'm out and about because it's almost instantaneous, but the Status Board works best at the times you're just down the hall in the bathroom.

Texting can feel too impersonal and too personal at times.

* - The Status Board is made of a piece of cardboard from a surge protector box, Sharpie, statuses, Post-It Notes, and creativity.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Built Up

I moved into my dorm on Saturday, which wasn't as hectic as we thought it would be. There were the ever helpful HELP squad that would unload cars and carry loads of everyone's stuff inside and up the endless flights of stairs.

I had a hard time sleeping in such a new place. New room, new nocturnal sounds, new bed and sheets. Although, the orange-glowing fog bank coming off from the bay really put me in a good mood. That, and hearing the familiar sounds of the BNSF train--That is the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe line that I heard almost nightly growing up in Santa Fe, NM. It's been so long since I heard the train. And then the people down the street started partying. Loudly. With firecrackers.

Sunday I waited in line for bed parts to boost, for like an hour. People ahead of me kept walking out of the storage room with nothing, so I was really confused and wasn't sure if there'd be parts for me. At the end, my roommate and I did get bed parts, really heavy bed parts.

Just to let you know, building up your beds can be rather difficult. And we had to wait for this tool called a "bed wrench," and they didn't say exactly what it was. There were about six of these being shared between six floors, and almost every room was building a bed.

For those of you coming to Western next year and want to prepare, the mysterious tool is a 1/2" socket wrench with a universal joint. Who knows, maybe you can buy one, and rent it out on Move-In/Build Up Day next year?

Now, our beds are boosted a good like four feet up, which gives us room to put things like desks, fridges, and microwaves under the beds and free up space. Sleeping on them last night was a little scary, as they aren't the most stable structures known to man, but they can handle someone getting up and laying still all night.

Experience (3)
After a long line of waiting, sometimes key pieces like ladders and rail guards won't be available. Also, bed parts are heavy and can be difficult to maneuver. Fortunately my roommate's parents were there, and then my girlfriend and her sister showed up. Even then the beds were a little uncooperative, but we got them up.

Advice (3)
Get in line for parts early, and have people there to help

Get in line early; everyone else seems to do so. Make sure you have two or three people there to help transport and help with building. If you don't have parents or friends with you, call on your hall neighbors. If they're busy building, help out, and then they can help you. Teamwork and community building!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Winding down

Now, I have officially ended my internship with the local paper, the La Conner Weekly News. The internship was through the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (WNPA), and it all started back in March.

(Sorry for the dirge of links).

Today I received the second and final check, which was sent to me after I had completed 240 hours of interning, and I had written an exit-essay/letter to the Internship Board at WNPA. To celebrate, the owners of La Conner Weekly News, Sandy and Cindy, took me out to a very good (and filling) Mexican lunch with one of La Conner's best writers, Jim Smith. Yes, the Jim Smith that writes "Notes from Pull-and-Be Damned" and hangs around and gives "college lectures" the local coffee joints.

This week I also had my last day at the local library...

It feels very weird to be wrapping everything up and moving on to college life. Yesterday I spent a few hours turning the pile of stuff in my room into a bigger mess and pile, and then strategically reordering everything to fit in boxes. Somewhat.

Experience (2):
My roommate and I didn't started talking until a few days ago, and we move in together this week. Before then, he had been on vacation, and I hadn't been able to contact him at all. But it all worked out in the end.

Advice (2):
Once you know who your roommate will be, try and contact your roommate as soon as possible.

Before you move in together, you should get to know them, as well as plan who will bring what, and establishing ground rules, etc. The best part of starting as soon as you can, you have more time to contact them if they happen to be on vacation. Also, a lot of colleges let you request a roommate (if you both request each other), so if you know someone that's going to the same school, you can talk and see if you want to live together. Could be a classmate from high school, someone you met at a concert, or a player from a rival team you happened to befriend. Whatever works.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Countdown to Dormlife!

As of today, there are eight days until I move north to Western Washington University.

I'm excited, nervous, ecstatic, and anxious; and a whole slough of other, random emotions. But overall, I am looking forward to school again. The year off was definitely a great idea! Not only did I dodge the mistake of going to The Art Institute of Seattle (less school than company) and having a huge amount of debt, I also spent time with my girl, worked a bunch, and even expanded my knowledge and interests to include writing for the local paper.

Hopefully in the next several months I can report on my college experience and younger, high school-age kids can read these experiences and use them to better plan their own lives.


Experience number one:
If you feel rushed to jump straight into college out of high school, don't do it.!
Last summer I felt stressed out about going to a big, expensive college. I didn't want that crushing debt, and wasn't even completely sure what I wanted to study there.
The more my mom and I talked about it, the plan of taking the year off to work and look for alternative plans sounded more and more appealing, so we did it. I took the extra time to shrug off the stress, take up extra jobs to save money, and research other colleges. By March, I was pretty damn sure of where I wanted to go, and took the appropriate steps to get me there.

Talk with your parents and see what they think of you taking a year off. Don't use this year to sit around and chill out; you still need to work to save money and plan your next steps, but the added months really do help you get priorities in order, as well as try new experiences.

Advice number one:
Don't rush yourself into "the next step." Take your time and figure out what you want to do next.

If you're stressing out about college straight from high school, talk to your parents about it. If you include them in your thought process, they will more than likely support this endeavor. Just don't take the year off to couch-lounge and procrastinate until the following August.
You need to be proactive and productive if your parents are going to let you stay another year. Use the extra months to work and save up money, and find a college or next step that you really want to do.

Now, get offline, take a deep breath, and relax!