Monday, October 22, 2012

Five Things That Should Be on Everyone's Bucket List

Five Things That Should Be on Everyone’s Bucket List
By: Jenny Riley

1)      Backpacking
As long as you are sleeping on and eating with the things in your backpack and not relying on any mode of transportation besides your own two feet, you are backpacking correctly. Backpacking at least once in your life gives you the kind of self-dependency which is essential in recognizing the novelties we take for granted today. Recognizing and for once not taking for granted the luxuries by which we live is important for understanding modern life as a whole.
2)      Sky diving (Obviously)
I won’t lie to you and say that I’m a wuss so that when I tell you that I’ve been skydiving before you can feel more at ease. I’m quite the opposite of that, in fact, and find that “adrenaline junkie” is a bit more appropriate for a title for me. But I must wholly condone that having taken the leap of faith this past July, I feel that I am a different person because of it. The people I met at the skydiving ranch really changed my perception on life. The way that my instructor talked about his job—about being able to see every day people that are at emotional highs in their lives, and how beautiful they all are in those states of mind—it really made me think about my current state in my own life, and made me wonder if this would be a state of mind I would always want to revert back to. It’s important to one day have the courage to sky dive, and possibly to reflect on what in your life has given you the courage to not be a wuss for once and just to enjoy, as my sky diving instructor referred to it, the exciting emotional high that sky diving seems to entail.
3)      Travelling across the U.S.
To all United States citizens, what is stopping you from seeing every corner of your beautifully diverse homeland? Absolutely nothing, as a matter of fact. As U.S. citizens we are allowed travel to anyone of the 48 continental states (and also to Alaska and Hawaii, if you so happen to have the money for flight fare). No matter by what mode of transportation you see the country (motorcycle, biking, car, walking, even) you will be open to experience a range of sites which citizens of no other countries are entitled to. So why not take this privilege to your advantage in your lifetime, and see the Alaskan Highlands, Old Faithful, Mount Rushmore, Yosemite National Park, Death Valley, the Redwood Forest, or the White House?
4)      Learning to speak another language fluently
The best part about learning another country’s language is being able to make friends with people from those countries and, in turn, to be privy to their lifestyles. The best part about learning German could be actually getting to sit down at a German pub during Oktoberfest and having a merry time with people who don’t know a thing about your home country. Because let’s face it: going into another country and not knowing a word of their native tongue is not going to score you brownie points with potential local friends. Also, if becoming fluent in another language for the purpose of going to another country does not entice you, it might help to add that learning another language as fluently as I have has really opened up my vocabulary in English. There are all kinds of benefits in learning foreign languages.
5)      Going couch surfing
The beautiful thing about CouchSurfing is that you can couch surf with relatively anyone in any country who has agreed to the activity and, also like the learning to speak another language fluently, couch surfing opens you up to learning the customs of people of other countries, while also learning things about the countries you visit from people who live in those countries and know, for instance, the best places to get a coffee, or a maybe to take pictures and write about your experiences abroad. Also, these are the kinds of experiences that could change your perception on the way that you live and, ultimately, who you are as a person.

A Revolution in Today's Learning

A Revolution in Today’s Learning:
John and Hank Green’s Crash Course!

By: Jenny Riley

There is currently a revolution taking place in modern day learning. Online resources that have developed ever since the advent of computers now allow anyone with Internet access the ability to be his or her own teacher. Take for example the online channel Crash Course! created by siblings John and Hank Green of the famous YouTube community “Vlogbrothers”.

Crash Course! is an interactive non-profit YouTube channel which produces videos of brief and concise lectures on anything concerning biology and world history. (These topics of discussion are led onscreen by Hank and John respectively). Topics for discussion in the videos are selected often by the popularity shown from comments on previous videos, usually entailing the number of “thumbs up” for particular ideas submitted by viewers, which appear in the comment section under the video. Crash Course! has a team of specialized video editors who collaborate with Hank and John on graphics, often allowing for onscreen annotations by which the viewer is able to click on in order to be directed to previous parts or other sources if the information discussed is confusing for the viewer.

The information is never dull in Crash Course! videos—often Hank and John make jokes or relate new information on the topic to current events, or even comical events in their lives, for better viewer understanding of the topics. Normally the introduction leading into the theme tune of Crash Course! videos will end with one of the brothers making a joke about the topic, usually incorporating an evident stereotype of the topic being discussed in each video. These jokes serve as brilliant openers to the educational videos and provide viewers with a great starting point for understanding the rest of the informational topics. And if that is not enough to have viewers running back to their computers every week for the purpose of learning more about important worldly and scientific facts, then the amazing and colorful graphics and editing techniques which serve the teaching of the lectures onscreen should do the job.

A new video is released on YouTube’s channel Crash Course! biweekly, so its archive of information is always growing, along with the knowledge of these videos’ viewers. Utilizing modern technology to teach oneself online has never been so much fun.

Check out Crash Course!’s related channel, SciShow, in which Vlogbrother Hank Green talks about all things SCIENCE:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"The Purple Midnight"

Last night I dreamed that the world was purple, and that I enjoyed it all the more. 
Last night I dreamed that the floor was floating, but that I wasn't and that I couldn't be.
Last night I dreamed that I knew for once and for that brief moment what it meant to be floating, to be floating in that purple haze of the world, so delicate yet so beyond me.
Beyond me and anything I'd ever been capable of.
Last night I dreamed that it was enough just to be, and to be with gravity.
The purple midnight suspended just beyond my reach,
there only to teach that I speak with utmost certainty
that I know who I am and what it means to travel deep.
Deep. Deep. Deep, it preached!
The purple midnight put me to sleep and in this dream
I knew what it meant to be, to really be in this world I see.
I saw that I dreamt that I knew what it meant to be oh so tragically misspent
in an unkempt world of color and creation and character.
Halt! That I must tell a tale of earth, wind, fire, water - so delicate all of it
that it might permit that the exorbitant mortal emotion might tear apart
the stark contrast of real and dream (color and purple) so that I cannot take the
time to speculate trance from reality before the haze may go away.
Last night I dreamed that the midnight touched my feet
and that I was glad for its sweet brevity.
To know from it that at some fateful moment I might float
in many colors - in color and creation and character and that I might
travel deeply when I can see it.
Deep. Deep. Deep, it said to me!
That I might carry upon my person travel to-morrow
and keep with me the secrets of travelling deeply.
Last night I dreamed that the world was purple, and that I enjoyed it all the more. 
Last night I dreamed that the floor was floating, but that I wasn't and that I couldn't be.
Last night I dreamed that I knew for once and for that brief moment what it meant to be floating, to be floating in that purple haze of the world, so delicate yet so beyond me.
Beyond me and anything I'd ever been capable of.
The purple midnight suspended just beyond my reach,
there only to teach that I speak with utmost certainty
that I know who I am and what it means to travel deep.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Every Word You Write

"Every word you write is not a waste of time." -Jen Creer, Creative Writing professor at Truman State University

"The Call After the Wedding"

The night was nearly as dreadful as Mitchell Keiren felt. The trees seemed to give up in the early fall breeze, limping in a way that allowed silent kisses to the streets bordering the half-lit bus stop.
            What Mitch would give to be able to erase the passing of time, to be able to have done something that would have prevented the news he just received on the cell phone dangling from his right hand - the dangling like a mimic of the sad trees.
            Nothing felt right anymore. Eight minutes had passed since the call, and nothing felt right in the world. His face - which appeared flawless and smooth an hour ago in the hotel mirror of his best friend's wedding venue - now somehow felt both scrunched up and frozen. His clothes felt itchy, which matched the feeling in the back of his throat.
            His movements toward the bus stop from the latter part of his trek on had become more and more mechanical. They remained the only thing in his life that hadn't changed since the call. Everything else was changing and moving around in his mind in a way that made him nauseous.
            His phone vibrated, but it was like a distant call that a child would make to their mother in a grocery store. So insignificant to himself that he wasn’t bothered by it and it was soon forgotten.
            Eventually, the too bright headlights and hissing exhaust of the city bus re-activated Mitch's auto-pilot; his obedient and uncannily unaffected legs propelled him through the motions of boarding the bus, even placing him in a suitably distant seat from the driver and a group of Chicagoans which proved to be his social accompaniment.
            The ride was painful, as the short trip made the changes that the call enacted more real and sooner-approaching. By way of subsiding the anxiety of reaching an empty home, Mitch redirected his attention to the Chicagoans in the front of the bus. Were they from Aurora like he was? Were they having a conversation that would be worth joining in on? Inevitably, Mitch's thoughts took on a different tone, as row upon row of houses began to signify that suburbia - and home - was quickly approaching. Do they know what real loss is? Or do their smiles and laughter entail that they have never felt what I feel now?
            Every unanswerable question pulled him deeper into loneliness.
            Mitchell Kieren departed the city bus in Aurora in the same stupefied trance with which dominated him whilst boarding. His phone in his front pocket provided a constant urging nudge, but he was unprepared for the questions that must be rolling in from the rest of his family, and answering it would make everything too painfully real. He probably had a few calls from his best friend Jonathan, as he had just been leaving Jon’s wedding when the world changed—No, by the looks of the people on the city bus, it was only his world that had changed. It felt to Mitch as though, in the instant that the call ended, the world didn’t make sense anymore. But there were other people in the world who didn’t know Adam, who Adam’s life was never able to touch.
            A single tear ran down Mitch’s cheek. Finally it seemed that his emotions were catching up with him. Instead of walking in his mechanical and dreamlike fit down the sidewalk toward his house at the end of the street his body finally woke up all at once. His legs buckled under his weight so that he appeared drunk, but he could hold himself up no longer. The homes around him went topsy-turvy, until he made his way to a bench and sat down with his head between his legs.
            He breathed in…and thought about Adam’s smile. He breathed in and thought about teaching him to ride a bike, to build a sandcastle, to read, and then how last week Adam asked him to teach him to impress his girlfriend with proper dining etiquette on their first dinner date.
            Just last week. Mitch’s stomach clenched and he let out a soft moan.
            Seven billion people on this earth and Adam had to die. Adam. Little Adam. Adam. His pride and joy. Adam.
            Adam. Adam. Adam…
            The feeling of nausea that Mitch had on the bus returned, even while his head was still planted firmly on his knees.
            It was as though Mitch had gone back in time, to a moment before Adam was born. Before Adam was born Mitch had no real responsibilities. He and his girlfriend Jane had decided to keep the baby months before high school graduation. By September of that year, when Mitch was handed his son for the first time, it was like his life goal was inevitably to see to it that Adam had the best life he could give him. That was only minutes after Jane had expelled her last breath.
            Adam was his responsibility, and just like that - at the same age Mitch was when he was given full responsibility of him - Adam’s life ceased to exist.
            In that same position on the bench Mitch cried. Once the fit of disbelief subsided a fit of uncontrollable sobbing followed. He was in physical pain. The feeling of losing half of your heart was a feeling like being kicked in the stomach with so much blunt force that he could only breathe in small huffs, yet it was too much for him and he threw up.
            He threw up violently between his legs and the pressure on his head, mixed with the shortage of oxygen to his brain, kept him from being able to move away from the puke. Besides, he didn’t even register the smell.
            For about an hour he stayed there on the bench. He cried silently and rocked back and forth, trying to get back in touch with his body and thanking God that no one was out in the neighborhood at this time of night. He was a block from home, a block from reality. A block from a home that no longer included Adam, a home that would no longer echo his laughter throughout it.
            At four a.m. Mitch finally picked up his cell phone with a trembling hand. His mother answered and asked him where on earth he was, deciding not to directly speak about Adam until they were in person, Mitch thought. His voice hitched a few times as he answered but he was able to tell her the truth, and asked her to please take care of his body until he could call again, and that he would make arrangements for the funeral when he felt better.
            Mitch felt like he was eighteen years old again. He felt the same as the day his mother told him he would need to take responsibility for a real, living human being. He wanted so badly to be able to go back to that day, to start everything over.
            “Adam,” he said to Jane’s pregnant belly one August evening, “Dear Adam, because of you I will grow up.”
            Mitchell Kieren stood up from the bench and walked home.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


This trip is no fairytale:
In her unlikely journey,
The last of her things packed,
It had been a long night when
Her mystery hitched a ride to Tomorrowland.

"They Also Enjoy Surfing"

Noticed amidst the thunderous clamor are the
Unique people who aren’t giving up swimming,
Just because they also enjoy surfing.

"He Prefers the Scene"

He prefers the scene where he laughs.
Now, gone are the days when he goes to sleep
And acknowledges nothing is good enough for her.
That’s understandable until “I love you” every night
Becomes cigarettes, smoking upset by some vow.

Monday, October 1, 2012

If Ever There was a Person to Idolize

Benny Lewis, a man from Ireland who has spent the past 8 years of his life globe-trotting and learning 10! different languages (including American sign language) is probably the biggest inspiration I have had in a while. I have never idolized someone as much as this guy. I mean honestly, traveling the world and learning the languages just to be able to learn the cultures and make connections with people so unlike yourself? That is an ideal life. To be able to travel without a penny saved, to have that kind of courage...what a cool guy!

Check out his website and TED speech: