August 28, 2006


I think science is humankind’s attempt at understanding the natural universe. This means that scientists not only seek out new knowledge, but that they also create systems to categorize, record and advance information as they go. Spoken word, scrolls, books and electronic media have housed this information for us over many millenia and this month, like most months, science was advanced once more: we lost a planet in our solar system.
Well to be fair we didn’t lose it exactly, we redefined it. Pluto is now considered a “dwarf planet” like almost a dozen similarly-characterized bodies in our solar system. To many people this is shocking: we now have eight planets instead of nine, we don’t have “pizzas” at the end of the acronym My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas and heck, all of our science teachers were liars! Well yes, all of that is true, but besides our education system what is going to change? Probably not a whole lot. As science fine-tunes its understanding of the natural universe, which it does quite often, textbooks will include the changes in new editions, spoken word will adapt to the differences and electronic media will evolve just the same. Like many times before we will change the way we think to allow for truth to be our guide (even if we don’t like the truth at the moment). People eventually dealt with the fact that the Earth wasn’t the center of our solar system, much less the universe, and now people will have to deal with the fact that Pluto isn’t a planet. The universe doesn’t seem to mind the reorganization and Pluto probably doesn’t either.

August 26, 2006

Costa Rica!

On my last night in Costa Rica I turned to the first page of my journal and looked over my goals for the trip. They had changed and molded around my experience but, like my photographs and video recordings, they could not explain everything I experienced during my time in that wonderful country. I thought about what I had accomplished and how hard it would be to write most of it down.

After putting up my photos on Flickr and beginning my scrapbook I feel like I am getting there, but I know there is still a lot left to do. I will be finishing my application to Peace Corps this month, including an essay based on my experience in the Costa Rica, and I will also be sharing my photos and thoughts with the Campbell University administration and students through presentations this month as well. However, maybe most importantly, I will be writing back to Costa Rica this month to say "hello" and "thank you" to all of my wonderful teachers and family.

When I look back on my goals and think about how they were achieved, I quickly lose sight of myself. The things I enjoyed, the people I met and the experiences I had were the result of the contributions of hundreds and thousands of individuals and to all of them I am very grateful.

Costa Rica, originally uploaded by Travis Hellstrom

Woo Hoo

Like many people I have been caught up in this song for some time, however, I had no idea she could do this live like she does. This is a very fun song and I really enjoy listening to I enjoy watching it too. I hope you do.

KT Tunstall with Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree

August 16, 2006


One of the topics today during our RA Training was one given during the Devotional by our Campus Minister. Surprisingly Terry-Michael didn’t say a whole lot to us and instead allowed us to talk back to him and make suggestions on his general topic of campus community.
In his opinion there are a lot of groups at Campbell, pockets here and there, based on clubs, ideologies, majors and friends. That in itself isn’t bad, as we came to agree on later, but the problem arises when those groups become exclusive and all of a sudden everyone at Campbell loses a sense of overall community and identity.
Once he finished his short message I raised my hand from the audience of about fifty resident assistants and resident directors and I said I understood what he was saying. I told him, and everyone around me, that when I first came to Campbell I viewed things very differently. For the first week, I walked up to anyone, sat down with anyone and communicated with whoever I wanted to blind to any affiliations or pockets of people. It only took about a week before that changed. What I had admired, as a quality of this place which made it so different from high school, then disappeared. There were groups, pockets, friends, organizations, grade point averages and majors to consider, not to mention classifications. I had to be careful who I talked to and who talked to me. All of a sudden it was far too much like high school and since that time, three years ago, I have been trying to get back to my first week.
Terry-Michael agreed with my perception of things and how that mentality can develop so easily. “Perceived boundaries” could be tremendous stumbling blocks to overcome, he said. We set up things in our minds which we think really exist, but when we confront them (as I have been trying to do) we slowly realize they are not as real as we thought.
Later that day during one of our breaks Toni, one of the resident directors on women’s campus, turned around in her chair and said, “I have to tell you something…What you said today really struck me and I wanted to let you know, every since I first saw you I always got the impression of you that you were talking about: that you were somehow outside of reach or someone that I couldn’t really get close to, including sit next to. What you said today surprised me and it really meant a lot to me that you are trying to move away from that and toward something you think you had a long time ago. I can totally relate to where you are coming from and what you are going through (as people often say their impressions of me are very negative and serious at first) but I admire that you came out and said that to all of us.” I told her I was glad I said it too.
Today I think that I recognized one of the many opportunities that I have available to make a change in myself for the better and that I took one small step in the right direction. It came quickly and my heart beat rapidly before, during and after I did it, but I know now that it was the right step to have taken. Like my dad always says, “Whatever you do, the next time it gets easier, good or bad.” Whether it’s sitting down with a stranger, being conscious of how I am being perceived or simply recognizing an imaginary boundary I created for myself, I hope next time I see the choice just as clearly and that I make the right choice again and again.

August 14, 2006

Life's Little Instructions

Sing in the shower Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated Watch a sunrise at least once a year Leave the toilet seat in the down position Never refuse homemade brownies Strive for excellence, not perfection Plant a tree on your birthday Learn three clean jokes Return borrowed vehicles with the gas tank full Compliment three people every day Never waste an opportunitity to tell someone you love them Leave everything a little better than you found it Keep it simple Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know Floss your teeth Ask for a raise when you feel you’ve earned it Be forgiving of yourself and others Overtip breakfast waitresses Say “thank you” a lot Say “please” a lot Avoid negative people Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yards Wear polished shoes Remember other people’s birthdays Commit yourself to constant improvement Carry jumper cables in your trunk Have a firm handshake Send lots of Valentine’s cards. Sign them, “Someone who thinks you’re terrific.” Look people in the eye Be the first to say, “Hello” Use the good silver Return all things you borrow Make friends but cherish the old ones Keep secrets Sing in a choir Plant flowers every spring Have a dog Always accept an outstretched hand Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life Wave at kids on school buses Be there when people need you Feed a stranger’s expired parking meter Don’t expect life to be fair Never underestimate the power of love Drink champagne for no reason at all Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation Don’t be afraid to say, “I made a mistake” Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” Compliment even small improvements Keep your promises (no matter what) Marry only for love Rekindle old friendships Count your blessings Call your mother

For as long as I can remember, these have been on a poster in my grandmother's house. They have always been a refreshing reminder to me and I hope they might be the same for you.

August 13, 2006

Good as Gold

I think one of the most lucrative job markets available right now is the self-help area. I myself am very fond of books that can be found here, like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Win at College, but I find it is interesting that such a popular area is defined by one thing: people want to more about who they “really are”. It think that is a fair assumption based on the titles of books, magazine articles and computer programs: “Discover the real you”, “Awaken the giant within” and “Be who you were always meant to be,” etc. Although this isn’t all bad, it does propose some problems.
Today we did a little activity to kick off Resident Assistant (RA) Training. We found out what color we were, based on a four-color system including Orange, Blue, Gold and Green. Oranges were the ones always out for a party, blues were always out for a hug, golds were out for responsibility and planning and greens were out to think things over. It was a little more complex than that, but that was the jist anyway. Not surprisingly I came out Gold. “Golds love to plan. They always have their planner or need to know where it is,” said our Residence Life Director. My planner was sitting in my pocket at the moment. So I’m a Gold, so what?
Well, I think that means I am very good at what I do and not so good at what I don’t do. I don’t wonder “where the party is” for example, or ask people if they want a hug, or think things over very deeply if I don’t feel I can prioritize it into my schedule. In some ways that is good, but in many ways it prevents me from being a balanced person.
I’m glad there are all kinds of different colors in this world, in regards to personality as well as culture, but I think the challenge still remains for each of us to constantly redefine who we are. I may be a Gold, but I have a little of the other colors in me too. I might not like it at first, but I figure the more I mix them up the more balanced and happier I’ll be…even if that means flaking off a little gold-plating here and there.

August 12, 2006


When I am around my dad, even for the shortest amounts of time, I learn a lot. With him my normal mode of listening and talking toward other people is reversed and all of a sudden I am the one in question. This isn'’t a bad thing, but it can certainly be uncomfortable. It'’s the kind of un-comfort that I have learned comes with growth and new lessons and so I am not afraid of it, but all the same it can still be surprising.
During our trip to Florida a three weeks ago I was able to talk to him about friends, life, finances, people, integrity, associations, songs, loving what you do and understanding how to deal with other people honorably and responsibly. I also listened to him when he laughed with my brother and sister, told silly jokes, approached his family and friends, back-sassed with sarcastic comments and stories and when he played with our new dog Matchbox who adores him. I have known for a long time that I want to be like my dad when I grow up, but as I actually approach that grown-up time I realize that is a tall order to fill. It'’s nothing less than a few hundred mannerisms and maxims, a couple dozen laughs and responses and an indescribable way of telling stories. I don't suppose any person is ever a carbon-copy of another, but I'd like to try awfully hard to have this original rub off on me. I love my dad and I am glad I had this trip to reflect on just how much I do.