October 30, 2007

Campbell Visit

Visiting Campbell was incredible last week. I was able to reflect a lot on my time at the school, reconnect with great friends who I haven’t seen in months and also create some new memories to add to already incredible ones. I'm sorry I didn't get to see you of you while I was in, including visiting many of you on the Haunted Trail, but I will definitely be back to Campbell soon and hope to see you then. For those of you who I was able to see, thank you so much for a wonderful visit. Thank you Josh for so much fun on Tuesday night, I love your new place and had tons of fun visiting with you. Thank you Michael and Candi for a great dinner and movie on Wednesday, it was awesome to see how much fun you are both having this year as you finish up school (Michael) and start teaching school (Candi); you are a blast to be around. Thank you Lynch Boys: Garrett, Tim, Pawan and Chase, it was awesome to play Risk and Monopoly, eat at P.F. Chang’s, run around the Apple Store and Barnes & Noble, make homemade ice cream, eat pizza, and laugh and joke around until late into the night. I am very thankful that I had such great friends living together in the same house my last year at Campbell. Also, thank you Chase for letting me stay with you and talk late into the night about great topics; I really enjoyed it. Lastly, thank you Taylor for a really enjoyable breakfast. You are wonderful to talk with and I am so proud of all the amazing accomplishments you are going to have this year!

When talking to graduates of Campbell, I have consistently heard that the thing they miss the most are the people - their friends. I am no different. I miss you all very much and could not be happier that you are a part of my life. I look forward to visiting you all again soon and until then I wish you the very best with school, fun, your family and friends.



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Namaste

It’s kind of crazy that I haven’t written about this yet, especially since I have told so many of you this story already, but here it goes. I was working at Pier 1 on an otherwise normal evening and the store was empty. As I was working on things behind the desk, I noticed a car outside with a LOST sticker on it. It just had a black background and white lettering that simply said “LOST” like the opening credits of the television show. I went into a frenzy. Who has this car! Where is this person? Do they work here? Are they in the store? I stood on my toes like a prairie dog and looked all around the store but I couldn’t see anyone, and then all of a sudden, there she was. She was the only person in the store that seconds ago I thought was empty. I had to play it cool, but it was hard, LOST was at stake. “Excuse me,” I said as I strode by her, “is that your car outside with the LOST sticker on it?” She nodded. “Like the show LOST?” She said yes. “That’s the best show ever made,” I said smiling. “I know,” she replied. The next thirty to forty-five minutes were a blur, all I remember was discussing the show and jumping around from idea to idea like jackrabbits on hot summer pavement. It was awesome. As the store closed and she headed out I told her thanks for putting the sticker on her car and she smiled. She had, by far, been the best customer I had ever had. But it gets better.

The next day, when she came back to pick up a chair she couldn’t fit into her car that night before, she left me a present. When I came into work my coworker threw it to me and I couldn’t believe it, all I could say was “No way!” In my hands lay a black t-shirt with the words LOST written across the chest. It was from the Season 1, just like her sticker had been. It was from the Official LOST store and it was just my size. I’m still in awe of this kind gesture from a fellow Lost fan who doesn’t even know my name, but then again I suppose awesome shows attract awesome people. To my best customer ever, thank you and namaste.

(P.S. I will write more about LOST soon, you can count on it)

October 24, 2007

Generation Y-Not?

It appears that Peace Corps has the highest number of volunteers in service since 1971. Pretty flippin' awesome I must say. Personally I think it's because our generation (Generation Y-Not? as I call us) is out to make change and actually make our world a better place. Like Dr. Seuss wrote in the end of The Lorax, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better. It's not."

October 21, 2007

Mac Daddy

It’s been three months since I received my MacBook on July 17th and I must say I am very happy with it. It is a great computer and it definitely gets my highest recommendation. Here are some things I have learned about Macs through my MacBook so far:

Macs just work. Turn it on and start up is twelve seconds. And then it’s on, no messages, no clutter, no nothin’. When you do start a program, it starts. When you close a close, it closes. No questions, no waiting, no bothers. That’s awesome. Also the interface is way easy, everything is self-explanatory and just where you’d think it would be. If you want to change something you can left click on it with one finger tap on the touch pad, right click on it by tapping two fingers, or scroll by dragging both fingers through any program. Everything just works.

Macs are clean. The design of the laptop and the operating system are both very stylish. Each icon was carefully thought through and the computer is a joy to play with. Mine is white and I really enjoy looking at it, I think that’s saying something for a computer. Apple took their time when creating the hardware and software and I really appreciate that as I work with my MacBook day after day, it could get boring but it doesn’t thanks in part to their careful attention to detail. Sometimes I pause on icons, in programs or even before turning the computer on, just to enjoy that. That’s very new to me.

Macs are simple. Every button is important. Brightness, volume, program separation (show all windows open at once so you can pick one in the background), program hiding (all programs move to the border so you can see your desktop) and the dashboard (a collection of “widgets” which can show you gmail, facebook, weather or whatever you want) are all accessible through buttons on the top row. Press one, sound goes up. Press the next, sound goes down. It’s as simple as it should be and it makes it easy to change the brightness of the screen and conserve energy (the battery last six hours), listen to music (the speakers get plenty loud) and check my e-mail quickly on the side without opening up a web page (which is really convenient). Maybe more than anything else, I am really glad to Apple has kept things simple.

I’m sure I will learn a lot more about Macs in the coming months, but I think that’s a good start for now. So far it’s one of the best things I have ever purchased and I love it more every day I use it.

October 20, 2007

Stamen Smart

So I was driving-thru the Starbucks last night after my first day of substitute teaching and found a question stenciled on their window. It surprised at first, but then equally surprising, I realized that I knew the answer. As the guy handed me my Vanilla Frappucino I said, "Stamen, right?" and he looked at me and said, "Yeah...Man, I didn't even give you the 10% off." It was cool, I didn't notice the sign until after he rung me up on my giftcard. "What is the male part of the flower called? Get 10% off," it said.

Regardless of your opinions on Starbucks...or the $4.16 drink I buy every other time I want it...you have to admit that was a pretty unique occurrence. That I knew the answer "stamen" is a direct product of my Botany education at Campbell University, so kudos to Dr. Metz. You never really know what your college education is worth until you test it and find you learned something. Now I know, conclusively, that what I learned is worth at least 42 cents...at least. (Or anyway, Starbucks thinks so).

Friggin' Pooped

I am so friggin’ pooped it’s ridiculous. Substitute teaching was great, molding all those little young minds with my nimble hands…Only thing was, I only planned on being there half a day. No matter what the job, planning on working only half of what you end up working can be draining. At 11:20, after four hours at school, I thought I was going home but I got a phone call that said, “Hi…Can you stay the whole day?” The answer was yes, but I didn’t feel prepared. For one, I didn’t have a lunch (and still haven’t eaten any more than a piece of pizza this morning since we were out of milk and cereal was out of the question) and for two, I didn’t have a lesson plan for the rest of the day. And for three, I had to work from 4-8pm at Pier 1. And for four…how can teachers stand up all day! My feet are friggin’ killing me!

The kids were great, really. They were sixth graders, probably about eighty of them by the end of the day, switching around between blocks (which are different subject areas…it’s complicated and I don’t really understand it) about every fifty minutes. We silent read semi-silently, read science articles and studied algebraic expressions for math (twice each, during four different blocks), went to lunch read, came back from lunch together (a surprise to us all), went to recess, got a short break when I wrote my summary of the day’s happening to the teacher, got ready to go home and…also got cute notes from the students on the whiteboard (“Thanks! You were a nice substitute” and “Have a Rockin’ Friday”), received a cupcake from one student and chinese donut from another and, maybe most importantly, got to laugh at myself a lot all day long. I hope I get better each time I substitute teach, but for the first time out I think did pretty flippin’ okay. I’m learning a tremendous amount…maybe even more than the kids. Yeah, probably.

October 19, 2007

Substituting for Worry

I am about to head out to substitute teaching this morning and I’m nervous. I’m sure it will be fine, but it’s surprising the things one worries about when preparing to enter a room of sixth graders for the morning. Will they be settled down and reasonable, like how I dressed, laugh at jokes I make, or care what I have to say? I hope so, especially since I generally have a strong presence, but it is still a worry that I am slowly getting over. We shall see how it goes, but it will definitely be a learning experience no matter what.

October 17, 2007

Friendships

Here’s something that’s been grinding on me for a while: meaningful friendships. It occurs to me that people define friendship differently. I have some friends who think you can be friends now, while we are close together in space and time, and then when we are far apart we are no longer friends. I may have tons of friends in high school or college or whenever, but then when I graduate I can probably never talk to you again and that’s okay. Actually, they probably prefer it. Then I have some friends who think that once we are friends we will remain friends for a long time afterward. We might travel to see each other or call each other now and then, but generally we will remain rather close. Maybe not in distance, but atleast we will remain in each others’ lives. Personally I like the second one and feel like the first one is pretty messed up. Sincerity, in my mind, requires that I mean it now and in the future when I say I care about you and I wish you the best in your life. Walking away after saying that and not looking back seems, to me, to be insincere.

Now, I am reasonable. I realize that it can be inefficient and difficult to constantly keep up with people you have known for a long time: to call them, to write them, to wonder about them. It is easier and more efficient, in the short term, to just be where you are and deal with the people immediately around you. Luckily the easiest things in life aren’t usually the best things, consistently, and efficiency isn’t how I define the meaningfulness of my life. I think, for me, it is very helpful and good, in both the long and the short term, to keep up with people I care about; that might mean a phone call once a year, or a visit once every few years, or a random message somewhere in between. Whatever the case, when I claim I’m your friend and I say I care about you, I mean that whether I’m around you or not. Please hold me to that, because that’s what I believe.

Life Not So Easy

Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language.


But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.
- John F. Kennedy, former U.S. President and founder of Peace Corps


Although I am doing many things right now which keep me busy, Peace Corps is always on my mind. I try to relax and not worry about the letter that is coming a few weeks to tell me where I will spending the next two years of my life, but it is very exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. Will it be Mongolia, a place I get more excited about every time I think about it? Or will it be another country in Asia or Central Asia which I haven't thought of? Time, and a letter from Peace Corps, will tell I suppose. Until then I'm learning a lot of lessons, including patience, and I imagine those will be very helpful when I am in the "life not so easy" called Peace Corps.

October 16, 2007

On The Pier

I’ve been working at Pier 1 Imports for over a month now and it’s been pretty cool: nice environment, great people, plenty of air conditioning and pretty good pay too. I got the job back when Peace Corps was continuing its two months of no communication with me and I didn’t know how long I could work, but as it turns out Pier 1 was cool with that and recommended I just work through the holiday season and then see how things go next year. More than likely I will leave for Peace Corps in Spring of ’08 but until then, I’m at home, at Pier 1, working on little things here and there and hopefully *fingers crossed* substitute teaching soon too. That’s my employment update for the quarter.

October 14, 2007

Five Years Out

Sometimes when Jonathan and I hang out we talk about our goals and ambitions in life and then we take to writing them down. A few days ago we started talking about where we would like to see ourselves five years out. Here are the ideas I wrote down. In five years I would like to:
  • Be a positive, reflective, engaged Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
  • Have spent at least two months in an Buddhist monastery
  • Be financially independent, responsible and creative
  • Be enrolled in/graduated from a graduate school program
  • Be accumulating assets through smart saving and investing
  • Be engaged in strong friendships I have continually appreciated
  • Have enjoyed the entire series of Lost for the second time
  • Have very few, but very important belongings that I love
  • Have a dog of my own

October 11, 2007

GOOG-411

Google is pretty awesome and most of us know this, but what you may not know about is a new service being offered by Google which just came out of Google Labs (where they test new ideas). It's called GOOG-411 and it's pretty much a free phonebook for any city in the country. Call 1-800-GOOG-411 right now to try it out if you have a phone nearby. It will ask for your city and state and then ask for a listing. Most recently I called and said "Hickory, North Carolina" and then said "Dollar Tree" because I wanted to call them to ask their store hours. The first listing it gave me was the one I wanted so I said "Number 1" and then "Connect Me" and within seconds I was talking to someone in the Dollar Tree and found out their hours.

It's super convenient and couldn't be easier, unless Google wiretapped my car and heard me wondering out loud what Dollar Tree's phone number was. But until that happens, I'll just use GOOG-411 and if you have any phonebook related questions I hope you do too.

October 10, 2007

IRL

I really enjoy reading TIME magazine when I get it in the mail and sharing the best articles with people around me, whether it's a feature article like The Case for National Service or You Are Not My Friend by Joel Stein featured at the end of this week's magazine. He makes a really good point: we say that sites like Facebook help us connect to people "but really, these sites aren't about connecting and reconnecting. They're a platform for self-branding...We're not sharing things we don't want other people to know. We're showing you our best posed, retouched photos." At some point that is understandable, but if we are deleting links to others' photos of us so people won't see them or we are afraid to say what we really think that starts to get a little ridiculous. At that point we start to run the risk of not being ourselves online. We might be too elusive or elitist, or we might be way more enthusiastic and positive than we really feel about a subject or message. "We are, as a social network, all so awesome that we will soon not be able to type the number 1, because we will have worn out the exclamation point that shares its key," warns Stein. He might be right.

I am definitely guilty of this myself and I would like to cut back on it. I think Facebook can be a very good way of connecting to people who you can't get a hold of easily (through phonecalls, e-mails or god forbid actually visits) but I don't think it should be a replacement. We all have people that we are close to in real life (irl) and I think it should stay that way. If you have close friends, keep them close and spend your time accordingly.

October 4, 2007

Meaning

I don't believe there is a heaven and I also do not believe there is a hell. I don't know if there is a God and I also don't know if it really matters if there is one. I don't believe Christianity, Buddhism, Islam or any other religion is correct to the point of being better than any other religion and I also don't believe anything bad happens after death if you do or do not believe one religion or another. In fact, I don't believe anything happens after death to a human any more than something happens to an animal after it dies. We are made up of matter in the same way that other creatures are and we are unique, just like they are. All I need to do is look into the eye of a gorilla, chimpanzee, dog or cat to see that myself. They are thinking and we both know it. Now just because we are animals and we die doesn't mean there is no point or use to living. I think our temporal nature and our connection to the rest of the earth makes our time here even more precious and important. I won't pass this way again and I need to get it right this time. Luckily, I think I have everything I need to do it.

I believe helping other people and searching for the good in situations helps a person many times over whereas avoiding helping others and only concentrating on the bad rarely helps anyone. I believe telling the truth can not only guarantee that you surround yourself with people who really know who you are but it can also help you figure out who you are yourself. I think meaning comes from bettering humankind's condition on this earth and making the planet a better place for all living creatures. Meaningful action helps others to achieve a better way of life, working to afford all humans simple standards of living guaranteeing access to education, health care, protection, justice and the pursuit of happiness. That's what I believe.

October 3, 2007

Kid Nation

I don't watch much television at all, except for Nickelodeon, Disney, and Lost, but now I have added one more show to my short list: Kid Nation. As much as Lost makes me jump up and down and yell, "This is the best show ever made!" Kid Nation makes me cry a little (especially at the ends) and think, "This show is good for this country." In a nation where the most popular television shows are violent, sexy, action-packed and adult-content based with disclaimers at the beginning, Kid Nation is kid friendly because it is only about kids. Can they get along? Can they work together and figure things out? Can they show us a thing or two about ourselves?

I have always had huge faith in the power of children. As a kid I thought over and over again that I was capable of so much more than adults would allow me to do, to think, or to attempt. Any show that helps kids become better people, any show that spends time investing in children's futures and any show that provides model leadership for other kids has my vote and my viewer-ship. It looks like my seventh Inner Peace Award isn't going to iPod Touch, at least not yet, but instead it's going out to the creators, producers, directors, staff and most importantly to the stars of Kid Nation. Thank you all for providing a great example to our country and to our kids. I am very proud of you and I will watch your show throughout this season. Keep up the good work!

Below is the Promotional Video for Kid Nation which sums up how the show works, but I would recommend just watching all the full episodes online. Be prepared to be impressed and maybe a little emotional. I love this show and I think it's great for all of us, especially us kids.