Thursday, January 27, 2011

Late Night Activity

Coming into college, I knew that everyone would have their own schedules and habits during the night, but you never truly understand it until you witness it.

For example, some people (like me) stay awake super late on certain nights since the next day they don't have classes early (or at all). It works for me, as long as I don't interfere with my roommate's schedule--which I don't.

On my way to brushing my teeth, at 2 a.m., I noticed people on my floor still walking around, hanging in each other's rooms, watching TV, and just generally being awake. If there were no windows and clocks, I would have no way of telling what time of day / night it was--except for maybe the lack of dubstep being blasted.

There is a certain flexibility in college that (should) help(s) prepare young adults to realize that outside of high school, there is a certain lack of rigid schedule. Not everyone will go to work a 9-5 job or keep "regular hours." There will always be another side of society that craves the night and goes about their evenings as someone may go about their mornings. 

Once and a while I am one of these "night owls;" I am suddenly productive, inspired, and awake at odd times late at night. Sometimes I get stuff done. Other times I just get sucked into Texts From Last Night, Facebook, Tumblr, Funny Junk, or a plethora of other websites. And some nights, I just relax, type up a blog, and listen to music.

Tonight, that music is brought to me by WWU's student-run radio station, KUGS--and one of my floormates with a superb taste in music.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sharing Our Secrets

Late last week I had a chunk of time between classes. I didn't want to walk all the way to my dorm just so I'd have to leave after fifteen minutes, so I grabbed a coffee and wandered around campus. Then, I remembered a note I had seen earlier that day.

This little note is the perfect advertisement: cheap, simple, can be posted anywhere, and it gets people curious to investigate. Having been to the Viking Union Gallery before, I knew right where it was. When I arrived, I was presented with a slightly darkened room filled with a cloud of white cards and quite a few students standing in the midst of them.

The white cards were note cards with words and pictures on them, and each one was strung up with thin string to about chest- to eye-level. Each card was hand-crafted by their owners who wished to share a secret anonymously. All of the visitors were slowly weaving between the flock of secrets, reading through each secret on their own terms: One doesn't have an order or schedule to follow when reading these secrets.

Similarly, there was no "right" way to hold or read these cards. Some people peered from a distance without touching any, some people jump into the middle and wove their way through the flock. A few people lightly held the cards like fragile butterflies, while others pinched them between firm fingers.

There was an un-oppressive silence as we all read; occasionally someone would whisper, giggle, laugh, sigh, or gasp in reaction to these surprisingly intimate and yet disconnected truths about people--that could be from a fellow student, teacher, or even roommate.

A few of them include:
"I think the green movement is bullshit."
"I did not vote" over an image of Obama.
"I like porn. PS- I'm a girl"
"My math teacher is sooo cute."
" My real New Years resolution is to stop faking it."
"I stopped trying to be a size I was never meant to be. I have never felt this sexy!"
"I want to drop out and move to Germany in spite of my parents."
"I love being a slut!"

[Quick sketch right after seeing the show]

This show, called "You've Got Secrets" is an extension of the PostSecrets project, and will run in the VU until January 27th. The deadline for secrets has been extended until the very end. You can submit in drop-boxes around campus, or online--all anonymously, of course.

This is a very visually appealing show that also allows people to share their burdens with complete strangers. I think we all secretly want to share our secrets--the act of letting go of a secret lifts a lot of weight, even if it is on a small note card. I highly suggest to everyone/anyone going to see the show before the end of the month.

In spirit of this post, one of my own secrets:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cafeteria Tips / Tricks

Cafeteria. Dining Hall. Mess Hall. School lunch.

All of these probably induce specific words in people's minds. In mine, it's food, and awkward situations. A lot of people when challenged with a huge and bustling room full of people sitting together and seemingly all getting along, freeze up. They feel like they're the outcast that has no idea what is going on.  Well, have no fear! I will give some tips on what to do in a cafeteria (like Viking Union) that will make it less awkward for some. Or maybe just helpful tips to people in general; not sure yet.

I think for the "less-awkward" thing, the main point is: Being comfortable (and thus not awkward) is all about familiarity. From my experience, when you know what you're doing, you are less likely to think other people are judging you--it's all in your head.

At WWU, there are three main dining halls around campus, the most popular being Viking Union. It is open five times a day, for four days: Breakfast, Lunch, Light Lunch, Dinner, and Late Night Dinner. I won't jump into times/$$ and weekend schedules. You can see that here.

Standing in Line
Around noon and for dinner is when it is busiest and you are more likely to have to stand in line for a little while. If you are walking down the line and see a group of people you know pretty well, jump in line with them. Everyone does it anyway, and its better than sitting in line with no one else to talk to. If you see someone you have one class with and you talk awkwardly to them once a week, probably not the best choice for line-partner. Or you can plan to go with a group of people in the first place.

Usually outside of the doors are people sitting or standing and asking students if they have any guest meals. These people are usually upper classmen who no longer have a meals pass, someone who is down on their cash/luck, or just want a freebie. If you have extra guest meals, its to your discretion if you want to give them to people--when you say you don't have any, there's no way for them to know, anyway. At the end each quarter, there is a program that encourages students to "guest in" homeless/needy people of the area if they have any extra guest passes by then--since they don't roll over each quarter, you might as well do something good with them.

Seating Protocol
Once you're inside, you get your ID card swiped (or pay in cash), and then you're presented with a conundrum: Go pick out a seat and have to wait for food, or get food and get stuck with (possibly) bad seating. You basically have to gauge what to do by what everyone else is doing and how many tables are "open." If you're with a group, one or two people could go save a table in a few ways:
  • Simply sitting down and waiting
  • Putting a jacket/coat on the back of a chair and going for food
  • Putting out napkins for the other "saved" seats
Most people try to find their own table for their group since they don't want to intrude on someone else's group just as much as you don't. So unless it is a packed room (or there's rude people), a saved table should stay saved. If you're alone and the place is crowded, you can look for people you know in the sea of faces. It's good if you have friends that wear the same jacket or hat all the time, or have their own unique style. 

[See, a lot less sweaty when you see something familiar]

If all else fails, you have to try and find a table with a few empty chairs that wouldn't mind an extra person. Sorry, but sometimes you gotta face feeling awkward. Who knows, you might meet some new friends this way.

Getting Food
The on campus dining halls are buffet-style, so you basically have to serve yourself after waiting in another line. If you don't know what you want, don't stand in anyone's way or in any line; simple as that. Some people get their drinks first, then utensils, and food, or different combos. Sometimes they result in spills an/or a lot of trips, so I have my own way: I usually go from food, to utensils, to drinks because it's what works for me. Also, I don't put utensils on the plate, because they can slide and fall off; I instead hold them beneath the plate so I have a free hand for my drink.

[My carrying technique, as seen from below]

Also, most of the beverage machines can be operated single-handedly--if you know what to do. The one that seems to get newer/inexperienced people is the milk machines. So if you wanna look like a pro, here's how you do it. Grip the cup near the top, arching the back of your hand/wrist, and using that to push the lever up. This allows you to hold onto your plate and keeps things flowing.

[+5 Dining Hall points for being a badass and not slowing people down]

More Tips

Find what works (and what doesn't)
Mix and match foods, try new styles and tastes. That's one of the cool things about the cafeteria is there is a variety you can choose from, and most days you can find something you want to eat--even if it is ice cream or pizza. One thing I've learned from eating in the cafeteria is stay away from the chicken. And this isn't just at WWU, I know people at other schools in WA (and other states) that agree that whoever cooks back there can't make chicken all that well. Occasionally I'll have it just to see if it's any better; but it usually isn't. A few common complaints include it being soggy, too bone-y, and too much fat.

Think outside of the box to come up with simple solutions and/or new recipes for things.
One of my favorites [that I can't take credit for] is making a root beer float. Instead of grabbing a bowl at the ice cream bar, grab a drinking cup and fill with vanilla ice cream. Go to the soda machine and add root beer. Voila!

I've seen people make salads at the salad bar and bring back their bowls to the table, only to have a lot of it spill out while trying to mix it all together. An ingenious and simple fix is to grab two bowls while up at the line, and at the table clamp one over the other, hold firmly and shake. It's one extra dish, and little chance of being messy, if done correctly.

[Of course, shaking can be any direction]

If you have some of your own tips and tricks for cafeteria eating, go ahead and comment below!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Way back when...

The sixth write to Megan's ongoing year-long writing project, I'm just gonna jump into it, and you can view the rules for this one here:

Back in 1938, before the steam-zeppelins and sky-trawlers started mining space, there lived the aeronauts. These pioneers shared a dream all of mankind has shared since the beginning of time--to sail the skies. Only, after 1921, when media-mogul Sir Reginald West IV incorporated the world's first zeppelin-based company, Aeronautica, were these dreams fully attainable. Within two years, the company employed over 120 pilots around the world, and ran three major factories that manufactured the parts required for the new airships. By the third year, there was at least one factory on every continent--an experimental, extreme-condition factory was set up in Antarctica, but was closed in 1926 due to a series of unfortunate, weather-related events.
Aeronauts became a new tier in society, soaring far above even movie stars, literally. They were global superstars, and the more insightful advertisers began ask for their clever and witty mottos and slogans to be plastered upon the sides of these high-flying ships. Of course, only a few aeronauts allowed advertisements to be displayed on their ships--not only was it seen as a way to sell out one's dreams, it was also very impractical, as the ships were out of view of the public for a majority of the time. The aeronauts that did go for the money raced in the very showboat-y tournaments within a city anyway; it's not like they were doing anything spectacularly original with their ships.
Over time, the materials and construction of these airships became more manageable and cost effective, and the ability to soar among the clouds was affordable by more and more civilians (although still somewhat wealthy) every year. Although civilians were able to fly their new-found ships, very few actually sailed them on their own. Most of the time they'd hire a private aeronaut to fly for them, or ferry around tour groups around a city or county. 
On April 24, 1932, Sir Reginald West IV passed away, leaving his fledgling empire to his young, two-something son, Reginal "Regalo" West V. The world-renowned "Regalo" was competing in the Worlds Races, a test of man and machine against time and nature. On April 26, during a refueling stop over Bolivia, Regalo heard news of his father's death, and immediately steered toward London to attend the funeral and talk with Aeronautica's advisors--his father's closest friends. In 1933 and '34, while working on a major, yet secret project for Aeronautica, Regalo attempted the Worlds' Races, but was thwarted twice by storms over the Pacific. It wasn't until 1935 that he won the Worlds Race, and in a record time--so fast in fact that the race was renamed the Worlds' West Races, in honor of Regalo's father.
In another commemoration of his father, Regalo and Aeronautica unveiled their secret project to the world, on April 24, 1836--the Space Sailer. These new versions of conventional airships allowed aeronauts to reach the furthest reaches of the sky; bordering on space flight. By that fall, the designs had been reintegrated and upgraded for continuous flight outside of the atmosphere.
A new world awaited the aeronauts, and they were ready.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Things I've Read...Catch Up, Part I

While preparing my several blogs for their 2011 updates and revamping, I noticed that I have been lacking in the updates of my Things I've Read series (as well as not reading as much as I used to).

  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach
    Mary Roach has a morbid fascination to report on the odd nooks and crannies in this world, and in this book she takes the morbid part very seriously. Yes, she looks into all the weird things that happens to our bodies after we die, from art exhibits to recycling; cremation to test dummies.
  • Powersat - Ben Bova
    Sci-fi writer Bova is best known for his Grand Tour series of a future where humanity explores space beyond The Moon. But this is not that series, exactly. This is a look into how all of this was possible, by the attempts and creation of the power satellite. A driven company looks to create a massive solar collector in space, while other companies and a terrorist cell take aim at the massive station. 
  • Children of Men - P. D. James
    P. D. James, known for her crime stories pens about an alternative reality where humanity is faced with a mysterious, mass sterilization of all men in the early 90s. The story is in England, 2021, when a dictator seeks to hold power, while a small cell of resisters try to tell him otherwise.
  • SuperFreakonomics - Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
    The sequel to the massively successful, and equally enjoyable, Freakonomics, the Steves are at it again in revealing interesting numbers with the weirdest origins and relations. A few topics include oral sex, terrorists and life insurance, global cooling, and hospital efficiency.
  • Predictably Irrational - Dan Ariely
    Ariely challenges the conventions of "rational thought" and what we think we know in his book about what truly makes our decisions for us--and how to tweak the outcomes. Through a series of anecdotes, studies, and other findings, readers find the "secret" behind Starbucks, the major influence of the word "FREE" on our minds, and how in control we really are (not) in an "excited state."
  • A Pleasure to Burn - Ray Bradbury
    A compilation of short stories and original versions of Bradbury's classic, Fahrenheit 451. This isn't meant to be read like a novel, but more of a library for fans to peruse and peak into the mind workings of one of the greatest contemporary writers alive.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back to Business

It feels very strange to be back at school after a month of vacation, but I do feel good about being back. This is only my second day of being back in Bellingham and I am already accustomed to waking up early, having a new schedule and being back in a dorm environment. Although, there is a few things that feel funny to me still.

Just going to breakfast today, I saw a lot of people that I would normally see during breakfast from last quarter, but I still don't have names for them. Also, all of the people that I became familiar with in my smaller classes I don't have class with--except for math, a few people from last class moved up with me. Now I have to get used to a new set of faces, and hopefully learn some more names and possibly gain friends (or at least friendly acquaintances).

Already I've fallen back into the groove of the day:
  • Wake up an hour before class, shower, dress, check email, and then go eat before class. 
  • Continue classes throughout your day; have a meal if able.
  • Finish any important business you have--like buying textbooks and paying off whatever fees/tuition is left, etc.
  • Get back to the resident hall, dodge around whatever loud game is happening in the hall, and relax in your dorm. 
  • Possibly lose track of time with Halo: Reach and the internet.
  • Attempt homework.
  • Dinner.
  • Sleep at some point, and repeat tomorrow.
There hasn't been anything big and terrible about coming back to school after the long break, so for all of you that still have a week or so left, stop complaining and enjoy your break. But when you do get back, you do have to at least know the general area/building your classes will be, and when they are.

Also, I find it is mandatory for students to "dress up" for the first day of a quarter/semester--this could be just wearing a tie with whatever shirt you have, or at least bring their swagger to class.

I did both.

I don't do self-photos much, so don't worry about future posts with these.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Order

It is now officially the year of 2011! And that means resolutions! I didn't make any resolutions (so I can't technically break any this year), but I thought I'd try to stick to a schedule from here on out.
  • I will write at least one piece for College Collection each week.
  • Add to the Jones Soda Saying of the Day at least once a month
  • Completing prompts for Megan Writes 365 the week they are published
  • Post more of my free-writes
  • Short stories, poems, lyrical essays
  • Stay up-to-date with the What I've Read series (as I finish six books)
I think this will help keep stuff flowing and ready for people to read. Also, it should stop me from slacking and spending all my time free time on Halo: Reach this coming quarter.

Happy New Years Day!