Sunday, October 31, 2010

Alex Writes One

I've decided to follow along with my friend Megan's newest project, Megan Writes 365. Basically, she's following the prompts in a book for roughly the next year, as time/school/life allows. You can view her introduction on her blog.

Because I've got some time on my hands and am a bit behind, I'm gonna follow the first prompt today. The title links to the "rules" so you can see what the challenge is.


Sometimes, I feel just like a gerbil, running around and around on his wheel.
It all started when I decided to follow the telephone number on the ad asking "Would you like to meet a real-life Exorcist??!" The line below listed a telephone number (not 555, believe it or not) and specified: "Not for the faint of heart." I think it was at this time I was hooked.
I called the number about a week later. The voice on the other end on the line asked if I knew what I was getting into, and if I was ready. When I said I could take it, I was given directions to a parking garage near the middle of town, and a time and date to meet this so-called exorcist.
The following Monday (the given time), I took my friend Nate with me in case things got sketchy. The garage was full of cars and there was plenty of foot-traffic outside to (hopefully) deter any homicidal tendencies of both the human and supernatural persuasions. Ten minutes after we arrived, a beat-up black car pulled into an empty space and flashed its lights.
Nate and I walked over to the car, where we were greeted by a tall man in a brightly-colored trenchcoat. There were enough peace signs and flowers stitched into the coat's fabric to induce flashbacks to anyone alive in the 60s. The man shook our hands with firm grips, and introduced himself as "Kembar, the Paranormal Exterminator Extraordinaire." With a flourish, he opened the trunk of his car, and Nate and I stared in disbelief.
At the bottom of the trunk was a large, black bowl, polished enough to distort and reflect our facial expressions as we peered deep into the trunk. "Kembar" produced a large flask from within his psychedelic trench coat and filled the bowl to the brim with what looked and smelled like vodka.
Before we could ask, he explained, "The alcohol attracts the spirits, draws them into the deepness of the Void of the bowl. Silence!" Nate and I jumped, and our gazes locked on the surface of the vodka, turned smoke-black from the bowl's depth. Some thing was inside the bowl, lazily moving and stirring the dark liquid.
"And there is spirit!" Kembar announced. His strong hands darted out of the folds of his coat and clutches the bowl. With a groan, he hefted the bowl up and around Nate and I as we yelled as the bowl was chucked onto the pavement. The bowl shattered, and the vodka splashed in a wave. For a brief moment, there was a small, black mass on the pavement, violently twisting and sputtering before it vanished with a splash.
Before Nate or I could recover from what we saw, Kembar slapped our backs and jumped into the car. He rolled down the window and as he backed out to leave shouted, "Now the spirit is your problem, boys! Think of it as a keepsake!" And he was gone in a flash.
Thoroughly shaken and officially weirded out, Nate and I drove back home. It wasn't a day later until things started happening. Little things at first, like a book falling off the shelf or the toilet lid suddenly slamming closed, but the events quickly escalated into phantom voices and things gliding, floating, and smashing around the house.
Ever since then, Nate and I have been looking for the psychotic, drug-driven, Hippie-exorcist extraordinaire, so we could kick his ass for pawning his haunting onto us!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sex on Campus

Now, I know many of you clicked on here just for the title alone, and I know just as many are more than likely appalled that I would blatantly talk about this particular topic.

While I can say that this is college and sex does happen on (in, near, around, etc.) campus, this is not the particular topic of this post. I'm talking about sex as in gender, and the inequalities on campus (and in general).

It was recently brought to my attention (by a friend) that in a neighboring residence hall, in one of the ladies' bathrooms is a stall known as "The Hottie Potty."(I also like"Man Stall"). Within this stall are tons of pictures of male models in various stages of (un)dress. My friend who told me did not know of this before going to said stall one day, and it surprised her seeing so many men staring at her. When she told me this story, I honestly chuckled at the idea.

Today in class (math of all things), my mind related this to the apparent inequalities between men and women, in which certain social "protocols" are overlooked in favor of women. In high school, many girls in my grade (actually, every grade) pinned up similar male model pictures. Any time they opened the door to grab a pencil, there was some hottie in barely-waist-high jeans trying to make "sex eyes" at who ever was looking. I remember saying in high school, "If a guy posted a bunch of women models in their lockers, they'd be practically forced to take them down."

I think this hypocritical stance would happen in our residence hall bathrooms. If a bunch of guys on a floor posted up supermodels in one of the stalls, word would get out, and some one "higher up" would order they be removed. Now, I have no word of if the ladies' "Man Stall" has been found out and eradicated, but I'm just using this as a parallel to show some "inequalities" in social behavior concerning the sexes.

Another "inequality" I recently found (on a forum) was about a local character. Many stories are circulating about how a woman goes around looking for guys coming back from a party, giving them a ride, and sexually assaulting them. Now, there are other stories saying it's a guy dressing up as a woman to assault other men. According to the stories, the cops aren't out in force to find the suspect. Now, this is all from a forum and no real evidence either way. I'm just using the conversation as part of my thought process.

What jumped into my previous segue was something that was said in response to the woman assaulting men story; paraphrased, of course: "If this was a guy picking up women and raping them, the whole city would be after this guy!"

As a male writer, I'm not here to gripe about some of the few inequalities that are in favor of women. Only once women have equal rights to their men counterparts, then we could knit-pick about the little things like "Man Stalls." (Although, sexual predators of either gender should be taken seriously). As a writer, I ask you readers (and hopefully a few responsive writers) what your thoughts are on these "social, sex-based inequalities"? Should men let the women have these "little victories" or should there be a movement of men to stop women objectifying them?

Personally, it goes both way as objectifying goes, but I'd love to hear from some readers--whether they post anonymously or not, that's your choice. I just want a conversation (i.e., not a debate) started about social nuances such as these.

(Again, I have no research into the forum issue, so I can't say one way or the other what is fact, I was merely using the discussion I read about the topic to add a perspective).

Monday, October 18, 2010

College Collection

For those interested in my college-related endeavors, here is the complete list of titles and their dates published here. Keep checking back here for updates or "follow" my blog-ring on Facebook. (To the left)

Quarter I - (Fall 2010)
Quarter II - (Winter 2011)
Jan. 4 - Back to Business
Jan. 12 - Cafeteria Tips / Tricks
Jan. 18 - Sharing Our Secrets
Jan. 27 - Late Night Activity
Feb. 4 - Dorm Life: Laundry
Feb. 8 - Graffiti on Campus
Feb. 17 - Studying Habits
Feb. 24 - Scholarships and Financial Aid
March 9 - Things I've Heard In College, QII
March 17 - College By the Numbers, QII
 Quarter III - (Spring 2011)
March 31 - Third Quarter, Start
April 28 - Tests and Exams 
April 29 - Wait a minute...  
May 5 - Typing as therapy from boredom 
May 19 - I've been where the sun doesn't shine...
May 23 - End of quarter procrastination
June 4 - Things I've Heard In College, QIII
June 9 - College By the Numbers, QIII
June 16 - College Rat Move-Out
June 18 - College by the Numbers, Year I
Quarter α - (Summer 2011)
June 14 - Jack's What to Bring, Intro
June 23 - Jack's What to Bring, I (Clothes)
July 7 - Jack's What to Bring, II (Dorm: Daily)
July 24 - Jack's What to Bring, III (Dorm: Furntiure)
August 3 - Jack's What to Bring, IV (Entertainment)
Sept. 1 - Jack's What to Bring, (Humans versus Zombies)
 Quarter IV - (Fall 2011)
Sept. 19 - Back to Campus!
Sept. 26 - Year Two, Week One
October 10-29 - HvZ Fall 2011 (collection)
January 3 - 2012 - No excuses!
January 3 - Things I've Heard In College, QIV
January 3 - College By the Numbers, QIV
 Quarter V - (Winter 2012)
January 3 - First Day!
January 9 - First Week!
February 4 - Winterness
June 12 - Things I've Heard In College, QV
Soon - College By the Numbers, QV
 Quarter VI - (Spring 2012)
June 14 - Things I've Heard In College, QVI
Soon - College By the Numbers, QVI
Quarter β - (Summer 2012)
Quarter VII - (Fall 2012)

October 17 - WWU HvZ Fall 2012, Day 1

The Portrait of a Cheater

-Subtitled: A College Tale-

While some of you that know me personally may have initially thought of my past relationship when you read this title, it is actually referring to what secondary educational institutions call "academic dishonesty."

Today was my Art History's first exam of the year (of three-with no final), and I was feeling really up to it. I knew a majority of the material very well, I did all the readings, and knew the dates and eras of specific works were going to get confused in my head--but for the most part I'm pretty confident that I did very well. In between classes I had half an hour, so I did some very quick scanning through all my notes and the study guides, so that helped freshen everything up.

However, many people weren't so prepared for this exam; or as calm. One of these people happened to sit next to me. Dark brown hair, about a head shorter than me, shifty eyes, and a nervous tick.

Her knees were always bouncing, and she was constantly fidgeting. I know some people just get nervous during tests--especially when they're titled "exams"--so I didn't pay attention to her.

It wasn't until halfway through the test I realized that she seemed to be looking at my answers for practically every question. I kept hearing her eraser to change answers. Apparently, I fill in multiple-choice bubbles in a way that gives off an aura of confidence. I had no idea I even had an aura of confidence (dressed in everyday clothes, of course--pinstripes are my Superman-suit).

So, I started to write my answers, and cover them up with my pencil as the teacher showed slides of the artworks we had to identify and write about. After I started this tactic, the assumed "snoop" next to me periodically leaned back against the chair-back to make it look like she was stretching. It felt like she was looking for someone else to look off of?

After the last slides were shown, I finished the rest of the answers fairly easily and left the room early.

I hope for my sake and hers that I did very well for the first half of the test, and she didn't misread the bubbles. Or perhaps she was merely someone who was just really nervous, and my suspicious mind misread her body language.

Maybe a class like "Body Language 203" is one I should take next quarter to help distinguish the difference?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lost and Found Sorta Day

I woke up this morning knowing that I wanted to do a post about the types of things that jump out at me during the day. And then when I got back to my dorm from the shower I realized I left my keys in the room, and had to call my roommate to wake up and open the door...

Little did I know that's just how today was gonna go...

So this post will go thus, I'll list the things I've lost today, and then list the awesome sights that I found throughout my day--just so I don't end on a negative--so bear with my grumbling (and excessive use of ellipses).

*Keys, as already grumbled...
*Halfway through my day I realized I left my jump drives in a classroom that I won't have class in until next Wednesday...
*Jacket in math class...which I fortunately rescued before the next class began.
*To load extra $$$ on my washer/dryer card...I was able to do it later in the day, though.
*The detergent when I went to wash my clothes...all I had to do was go back up seven flights of stairs to get it.
*Used my washer/dryer card to try and get in to the dining hall...I had my real card on me, at least.

*Sea of fog-banks pooling over the Bay, while a pillar of white steam wafts into the air. The cold, morning air sometimes spawns a huge amount of fog coverage in and around the Bay, and I'm loving it every morning. We keep our blinds open at night because of it. Or at least I keep them open, and my roommate doesn't say anything.

*Two guys walking up a hill, continuously looking around, wearing bright orange armbands. Today was the first day of WWU Humans Versus Zombies. If you're interested, check the link, it's really fun to watch. I didn't know it would be this soon in the year, so I don't have any Nerf guns, but I'll definitely sign up next round. (PS - When I checked the count this morning, there were 30 zombies. Now it's up to 92).

*Spider-silk line from the top of a light pole to a tree limb. Showing us once again, nature--in big or small ways--will always prevail, and keep going where we left off.

*Soft sunlight on the grass coming back from class. The grass looked electric, and like a rug of emeralds between the bricks. Just a really relaxing sight that helped me just relax and enjoy and focus what was around me--rather than dwell on the things I kept losing all day.

*The unique and "tagged" bricks throughout campus. There are bricks everywhere on campus, and a few of them have special tags people/students/staff have marked in some way. I think they're just bricks that were created, and then placed in the big walkways when no one was looking. Some of dates, some have quotes, and I even saw one that looked like a street-tag graffiti, relief style.

*This wasn't a sight, just a find: Two quarters from someone else's load of clothes. Gonna keep looking throughout the year.
*Orange glow and lights of Bellingham at night. As you can see in another post, the city at night is just awesome. I'm going to take more in the future to show it off some more.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

College Fitness, Part Two, and Sustainability

So, last week I talked a little bit about trying to be healthy on campus. I said I'd try to count my footsteps taken during a busy day for me. This won't be happening, as I found my pedometer uses different batteries than are sold at the AS Bookstore. So, I'll save that one for another time.

In the meantime, I can keep going with the healthy feeling and also talk about sustainability and being eco-conscious.

Living in a dorm, you begin to realize that you are disconnected from water utilities, bathrooms, and a kitchen in a way that probably never happened living at home. Every time I make a mess or need to wash my hands, I remember that I have to walk down the hall to get water to clean with. It really makes you realize how often it's needed (depending on how messy you are).

I usually drink a lot of water, just to stay hydrated and healthy. The first week my roommate had a case of water bottles; we'd finish one, throw it in the recycling bin and grab another. After a time, we had very few bottles, so I decided to start reusing mine. Now, I am constantly refilling two, 16.9 fluid oz. water bottles and a bigger one I carry in my backpack--so once every two hours or whatever it is (I haven't timed it), I'm going down the hall to refill these bottles, and clean whatever dishes I've used.

I think this technique is really good, because it keeps me aware of my dish and water-use, as well as what I reuse, recycle, and throw away. It's a pretty good way to stay eco-conscious.

Further use of eco-friendliness is we keep our window blinds open during the day. It's so bright, we don't usually need extra light unless we're doing homework or reading at our desks/beds.

For those that don't know, Western is very much about being green. There are recycling bins everywhere, stickers in bathrooms reminding about water/paper/electricity usage, and even has a small plot of land for growing food on campus.

Also, this happens to be Campus Sustainability Week. See? It all fits together.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

College Fitness, Part One

Update: 8:15 p.m.: New stair tallies seen below.

A lot of people are worried about the so-called "freshman fifteen" on campus. A lot of people are going to the gym a lot, others are trying not too eat too many sweets and trashy food, and some just make small adjustments throughout their day.

I'm not one to worry about my diet and my weight. My body does what it needs to do, and I try to balance things out. Of course, having big batches of home-made cookies within arms' reach while I play Halo: Reach isn't exactly helping...but for the most part I try to be more healthy overall than not.

This morning, I decided to take some tallies throughout my day. Originally I was going to track my total number of steps on my busy days (when I have three classes all across campus), but this morning I found my pedometer is out of batteries. So, I decided to count the total number of stairs (up and down) I stepped today.

Total number of stairs: 445
Walking up: 215
Walking down: 231
Overall trend: -16

New Tally:
Total number of stairs: 794
Walking up: 389
Walking down: 405
Overall trend: -16

Due to different routes to and from classes, the numbers are different up and down. Today's trend was I took 16 more stair steps going down than going up. One can say today I was "lazy" but I can refute that saying I didn't take any elevators--and that I go to the fifth floor to two rooms I go on my busy days.

When I first posted this, it had tallies of right after I get off class. I hadn't considered what would happen the rest of the evening--like going to dinner. The overall tally almost doubled, but it's curious that the trend was still sixteen. Must be one of the routes I take across campus that I don't repeat later.

Just keep in mind how worked someone gets when they have to go across campus, and then up at least three flights of stairs; all in ten minutes between classes.

And that's what my busy day feels like. I'm hoping to have a battery by Monday, so everyone can see total steps throughout my busy day.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Long Night

I thought I'd have something substantial to talk about in this post. Basically, I'm bored, and edited some pictures that will be up on my art blog, Northwestern Artist very soon.

Other than that, not much happening. I realized some of my ideas for blogs I can't do until my busy-scheduled days (Mon., Wed.). You will soon know what I mean.

In the mean time, you can share my geeking out over a new way to multiply polynomials, and the very interesting and strange critters in my room.

Enjoy, and keep an eye out for new posts this week.

This was actually created on GIMP so I could share it with people on Facebook. My math teacher put it on the board as an alternative for sketching a square and using the FOIL method. You may or may not really appreciate this.

This strange fly/moth flew in my room, and perched by my light. I just snapped some macros while it was there, and I haven't been bitten by it (yet), so I'm not complaining.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Awarded Works

For all of those curious about my awards at the 2010 Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspaper Contest, here they are:

All pages are owned by La Conner Weekly News, and used with editor's permission.

When opening and zooming in on files, be patient and let them load completely. The text should be legible, although the pictures seem to degrade in quality in this format.

Second place - Best Story of the Arts: "Giving life to stone"
Third place - Best Government Reporting: "Voters quiz and candidates spar" - cover, cont'd
Third place - Best General Feature Story - Short: "Fire in the blood"
Third place - Best Sports News Story - "A great show at Homecoming"


Newspaper Weekend!

Back from my two-day WNPA Better Newspaper Contest conference in Wenatchee, WA.

My English teacher would be so proud, I was making connections all weekend! Oh, and I obtained four awards for my writing with the La Conner Weekly News; but more on that in a little bit.

In English class, we're reading sections of the book The Young and the Digital by S. Craig Watkins. In it, Watkins explains the cultural migration of tweens and young adults to the internet and digital, social media. The concept of the book is that all of this media communication is making people evolve in their communication, rather than stunt it. The internet is just an extension of real-life relationships, and is the next social adaption.

Now, the newspaper industry is going through something similar. As my editor from the La Conner Weekly News said this weekend, "There are some dinosaurs here. We have to evolve from dinosaurs if we want to survive."

There is a migration of news-related media to the internet. I know you're thinking that the big news stations like Faux News and everyone else has already been online. I don't classify "TV news" as actual news, not in the same way as locally-produced newspapers.

At the convention, there were several workshops on various topics, and all of the ones I attended were very informative. The first one was in two parts, and was basically the business plan of the future, and it revolved around the idea that multi-media, internet/social media-driven news sources were the next step in evolution.

It really got my editor thinking, and now they're going to experiment with different things, including more on their blog and starting a Twitter account.

Anyway, the paper won fourteen awards total, with a clean sweep in our group for Best Government Reporting. (The papers are grouped by circulation, and we are in Group I for having < 2,500 in circulation every week).

Of the fourteen, I won four awards:
Second place - Best Story of the Arts
Third place - Best Government Reporting
Third place - Best Sports Story
Third place - Best General Story - Short

Oh, and I was the youngest person attending.

The convention was a great experience for me. I got to hear from long-time industry professionals, learn from these professionals, and meet several interesting people, including the President of the WNPA--we sat at his table and got away with it.

Later this week I'll actually post the articles I won these for. For now, adieu.