Monday, August 30, 2010

A Cicada Tragedy

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been kind of busy, but mostly just haven't felt like it. I'm taking 19 credits this semester, and at this point I can't say that I like any of my classes at all. So it looks like it's going to be a long semester. I've also been struggling with a serious lack of motivation. I know it's always hard to get back into the routine, but this time it feels different somehow; like I've finally gotten to the point where I just don't care anymore. At the same time I've had to make some kind of tough decisions with my schedule. It's not really turning out how I had wanted it to, but if I want to graduate on time in three semesters and before all my friends are gone, I don't really have much choice now days.

So, all this, and some other things as well, have had me in the mood to do anything but blog. None the less, I have attended some interesting events in the past week since I arrived. I went to the All College Picnic up at the Fort Bluff camp on the mountain above Dayton, and while I wasn't in the mood to do much but talk with some people, I did get some pretty serious video of other people playing on the blob in the lake:

The other night was Bryan's first home soccer game, and while the game itself was cool, it was raised to a whole new level of epicness by the presence of that infamous African invention, the vuvuzela:

The noise of the vuvuzela, if you were unfortunate enough to not watch the World Cup this summer, is something akin to a low buzzing insect, and when you get a whole crowed armed with them, it starts to sound like you are in the center of a swarm of angry bees. Speaking of buzzing insects, there are tons of cicadas around here... so many in fact that my Mom has commented on the noise they make while on the phone with me. A couple nights ago, while heading into my dorm, I noticed one sitting on the wall right below the flood light. On my next trip by, I noticed it buzzing about wildly and smacking into things. Then, it dropped on the sidewalk in front of me and lay still. I scooped it up and brought it into my room.

At first I thought it was dead, but then it moved, and I nudged it over to the Ivy that I have growing above my desk. It climbed all the way up the vine and latched on for almost two days. Then it fell off, and again I thought it was dead. THEN, the next morning, I saw it twitch again. I turned it back over and tried to give it some water to drink. I'm not sure if it drank any, but within a few minutes it was crawling around, and then flew off the shelf and onto the floor next to my bed. I decided it was ready to be released back into the wild... if the wall of my dorm can be described as wild. I took it out and placed it on the bricks in the exact same spot that it had fallen from originally, and there just so happened to be another cicada right next to it. I turned back to the door and realized I had left without my keys and it was several minutes before someone came out and I was able to get back in. It seemed worth it though, knowing the the cicada had been saved.

The next morning, coming back from class, I looked at the wall and saw nothing. Then, on the ground directly in front of the door was the mangled, but still unmistakable body of my cicada, who had obviously fallen, and this time been stepped on. I felt a great sense of defeat.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I finished unpacking and setting my stuff up yesterday and then made a run to Walmart (where else?) with Jonathan to get a few things for our room. I like my dorm room infinitely better than last semester. First of all it's in Woodlee, which is a newer building that Long, and has, in my opinion, a better layout. There is also a distinct and much appreciated absence of spiders, cockroaches, and Marilyn Monroe posters, all of which were present in my room last year.

This is a picture of my desk, which looks slightly different now, because I bought a keyboard this morning. It was only eleven dollars, and will hopefully last longer than my fifty dollar mac keyboard I bought that started to go bad after just about a year. This one doesn't have some of the convenient volume and screen controls on it that the other did, but it is actually better for typing, which is the main reason I need it.

The outlet on my desk wasn't working when I arrived. After plugging things into it and six or seven different combinations, I put in a maintenance order. The guy showed up within a couple hours, and guess what, as soon as he plugged something into the outlet, it magically started working, and nothing I could do would get it to stop working. He did take it apart and found a slightly loose wire inside, which may have been the cause of my experience before, but whatever it was, it decided to correct itself right before he got there. This isn't the first time this has happened to me with something like that. In fact, it's almost getting to the point where I'm scared to ask for help with electronics, because I know it will mysteriously self-correct right before the expert looks at it. That may sound like paranoia, but it's based on several experiences....

Classes start tomorrow, which will be good. I'm not entirely sure if my schedule is going to remain entirely the same as it is now, but I'm looking forward to some of it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Shredding Tires & Stealing Coffee

After only sleeping three hours last night, leaving home at 6:30AM, and driving for 14 hours, I'm finally in Dayton Tennessee. It rained torrentially for the first half of the trip, and then seemed unbearably hot and bright for the second half.

Aside from the weather though, my journey really went remarkably smoothly. Getting hit by a shredded tractor-trailer tire and accidentally taking somebody else' coffee at one of my multiple starbucks stops were the worst things that happened, and considering that the tire didn't do any serious damage, and the coffee was really more the barista's fault, it could have been much worse.... ;)

I finally arrived about 8:00 this evening. I was exhausted (and still am now). I hadn't been able to get in touch with Jonathan, my room mate all day (I later learned this was due to a major catastrophe that befell his phone recently) and was afraid I wouldn't be able to get into the room, as the offices where I pick up my key were all closed by then. Fortunately, my new RA noticed me walking back from the door and let me in, and then helped move my things up from my car.  

So it was a long trip, but I'm here now, and very thankful.

PS. if any part of this post doesn't make sense, please attribute it to my general lack of sleep, food, or some other necessity.....

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Off To School

Well, tomorrow morning around six I'm heading off to Tennessee again. I spent much of today packing, and otherwise trying to spend time with my family. I'm going to miss them.

The funny thing is, at one point, I didn't really to miss them (I'm going to get in trouble for saying this). The whole time I was in Italy, I can't remember feeling the least bit homesick.  My first semester at Bryan, I started out not feeling homesick (although did feel pretty lost for the first month or so). Then, sometime around the second half of the semester, I really started wishing I could see them again.

So now I can already tell that I'm going to miss them, and I haven't even left yet.

It's going to be a long drive down (13-14 hours)... by far the farthest I've ever driven by myself before. My Dad and I maintenanced my car today, and I have my GPS programmed, so hopefully there will be no disasters or unintended detours or anything of that nature.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vinyl & Vegans

 I hope to leave for Tennessee the beginning of next week, and the day before yesterday, a flurry of preparations that that had been put off so far commenced with my parents and I going to Big Flats NY to shop. Originally they were going for something else, but decided to take me along to the AT&T store as I have been in rather serious need of a new phone. I also needed a suit (I've always got by on borrowing my Dad's stuff, but now that I'm going to Bryan and living in the South, I have to dress up a lot more often). My Mom suggested we stop in Jos. A. Banks and just "look" at what I might want. As it turned out, they were having a 70% sale on everything just that day. So after about an hour of trying things on, fitting, marking for the tailor, I have two brand new suits ordered.

We finally did make it to phone store, where I traded in my four year old Razor. I had been thinking about just a newer flip phone, but we got a hundred dollar credit for my ancient razor, and I ended up getting a BlackBerry Torch 9800 Phone (AT&T). It's my first step into the wide world of smartphones. Maybe I'll post specifically about the features it has later, but for now I'll just say that it's a major upgrade. I took all the pictures in today's post using it, and I was impressed not only that they look quite decent, but that I actually had to downsize them before uploading them on here. It must be almost the same resolution as my first digital camera.

Yesterday I went on a trip to Ithaca with my Mansfield friends. We ate at the famous vegan restaurant, The Moosewood, and spent the rest of the afternoon trolling around the commons at stores that sold things like vintage records and hooka pipes. Below are some coffees we got at the Maté place, which was great.

While at a record store, Patrick bought more vinyl than I thought we would be able to carry back to the car. He and Nicole decided that they wanted to have a record party or sorts later, so on the way back to Anna's house where we had started, we picked up Pat's record player. We had planned on plugging it into the TV and just using the built in speakers. Unfortunately, we were never able to get the TV to pick up the signal. This led to an hour and a half long troubleshooting rampage that involved trying three or four sets of speakers, multiple cords, making a run to Walmart for adapters that didn't work (fortunately I was able to return them this afternoon). Finally, Ethan who had showed up at the house with several other people, offered to drive to his apartment and bring a guitar amp, which did work. So all that to listen to Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds.

We spent most of the rest of the evening out on the porch listening to the vinyl and setting things on fire. It was kind of sad to say goodbye, because I know it may be several months before I see some of them again.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Most Epic Settlers Game

I spent three days of this week working at Empire Farm Days in Ovid NY. It is the biggest show that ThisWarmHouse does every year, and unlike the others, it's just close enough to commute. My Dad and I woke up around six each morning and made the two hour drive through Elmira, past Seneca Lake, and then up to the huge field where the show is held.

It was pretty slow the first day, and on top of that we forgot to bring any chairs, which means it was a really, really long day. The second day was very busy though, and the third day, which in the past has been slower, was almost as busy as the second, which kind of made up for the first. So in the end it was a good show.

When I finally got home yesterday I was really tired... something about waking up early, standing in the hot sun all day, and talking to dozens of people is exhausting. I probably should have gone to bed, but instead I went to the Bible Study that Josh, Patrick, and sometimes some other people do in Wellsboro and Dunkin Donuts. Thomas, an old friend of mine, was there, and he brought Settlers of Catan Cities & Knights Expansion. After reading through Acts 8 and discussing it for an hour and a half or so, we headed up to Patrick's house and played what turned into what I believe we all agreed was the most epic game of settlers ever.

I had never played the Cities and Knights expansion before, but was very familiar with the original game. Cities and Knights goes to 13 victory points instead of 10, and in the last half hour of the game, which stretched for over three hours all together, Josh, Patrick and I all made it to 12 points. The problem was, we actually ran out of space on the board to build. I had reached 12 first, but was stuck in a complete check mate situation where the only way I could get one more point was to randomly draw one from the progress deck, which was unlikely, or steal another players metropolis, which was difficult, it seemed like we went through four or five complete rounds in which each of us thought we were about to win on our turn, or about to lose on every other players turn. In the end Josh, who wasn't completely boxed in like me, built a new settlement and won. That was a little disappointing, but it was still one of the most fun matches I've ever played before.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Cowboys & Indians

Yesterday I attended the 16th birthday party of an old friend and ex-neighbor (a title shared by very few people on this earth) Mariah Slack. I could tell you what the theme was, but I will let you try and guess from the above photo. Safe to say, there was a contra-dance band, square dancing, and several food eating contests. It was a legit party.

Speaking of cowboys and indians, I watched a movie this evening (no cowboys actually) that I have been wanting to watch ever since I was six and my parents wouldn't let me: The LAST OF THE MOHICANS. It was great, and I was right to want to watch it, even if I might have found it slightly disturbing at the time. It was also fun to watch in light of my recently discovered Lenape heritage. While the Lenape were not Mohawk (you see, it was the last of them) they were from the same basic area and time.

Tomorrow I'm headed to Seneca Falls NY (coincidentally close to where LOTM is supposed to have taken place) to work a show there for ThisWarmHouse. It's Empire Farm Days, by far the biggest venue we do all year. Not quite my favorite, but it should still be fun... as long as the sun doesn't shine too bright. You see, Empire is on this huge flat plateau high above the lakes. There is no shade and no and no water... only dust, tractors, and Mennonites for as far as the eye can see.

So I will def. be posting about it with photos afterwords, and possibly even from the event itself depending on what kind of internet we are able to get a hold of.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Nothing In My Way

I'm at that place in the summer where I really am tired of being alone and doing nothing. The obvious solution to this would be going back to school, but the sad thing is, even though it solves the aforementioned problems, I never really want to go back to school.

I have lots of reasons that I should be excited about it this semester, and true, I don't dread it as much as I have in the past. Still though, it's school... and for some reason I have just never managed to like it. At the same time I can't say I want to stay doing what I'm doing right now. So lately I have been thinking again of the lyrics to a song I used to listen to every morning while driving (generally way to fast) on my way to class at Mansfield:

It's just another day
Nothing in my way
I don't want to go
I don't want to stay
Now there's nothing left to say

Nothing In My Way from Under The Iron Sea by Keane.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Of Bugs & Bureaus

I've really had almost nothing that I've needed to do this past week. That can be a blessing and a curse. I'll be heading back to Bryan in a few weeks here, and things are bound to get a lot faster paced. For now though, I'm just reading A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West by Ian Johnson, and taking videos of bugs. That's right, bugs.

Okay, so I have videoed bugs, but I have actually been spending a good deal of time looking at internships for next summer and figuring out what it would take to apply. I'm required to do an internship for my major, and I want it to be something really interesting and possibly challenging. So even though I don't like planning, I've started looking now. I'm mainly considering something with the International Justice Mission, or the State Department. IJM, unfortunately for now, seems to have all their internships geared toward people who have recently graduated college, as opposed to still in it. Thus, the State Department has come back to the front of my attention. If I could get accepted, it would mean either moving to DC for the summer, or going abroad, and doing who knows what either way! There are so many different bureaus within the Department itself that it's really mind boggling to even look at all the possibilities. I would like something related to my major (obviously), and there are plenty of things like that. The other thing is that I would really prefer to go abroad. Not only have I been wanting to just do it again for some time, but it would actually be cheaper in some ways, because you get housing (in DC you have to fend for yourself). So anyhow, I'll be working on that more in the next couple months, and it will be interesting to see what God's plan is.  

Sunday, August 01, 2010

My Summer Reading List

Every summer, as an alternative to spending all my time playing video games, surfing the web & walking in circles aimlessly, I try to read  some books. Last summer I focused on the Afghanistan, reading some books by Khaled Hosseini, along with a few unrelated things I thought interesting. While everything was worth while, it was all extremely depressing. In fact, if you ever want to be depressed, just ask for my full reading list from last summer! This summer however, I have read several delightful books, and while some of them are pretty hard hitting, I wouldn't consider them to be depressing. In fact, I've been so happy with the books I've read so far that I thought I'd list them here....

I started things off with a book I had been wanting to read for a while. It was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Originally published in Portuguese, it is one of those stories that while remarkably simple at the base level, is filled with meaning and metaphor far beyond what I could ever hope to grasp. It tells the tale of a young Spanish shepherd who receives a vision to go on a quest across Africa in order to find a treasure and fulfill his "personal legend". Along the way he encounters many people who teach him different lessons, mostly of how not to do things. It has one of the most brilliant twist endings that I've ever read, and it doesn't hurt for me to say that, because you will never guess what it is. I don't know if I necessarily agreed with all the philosophy in the book, but it was definitely thought provoking!

Next came the book that turned into the highlight of my summer and sent me on a long journey that I am still continuing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Originally published in Swedish under the title "Men Who Hate Women", this book was penned by the Swedish journalist Stieg Larrson. He allegedly wrote it along with two other manuscripts working late at night. Mr. Larrson Tragically died before anyone new the greatness of what he had written. When going through his laptop however, three completed manuscripts were discovered. Thus, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was brought to life. It takes you on a wild ride through the Swedish underworld (who knew?!) starting as a journalistic political thriller, morphing into a murder mystery, and finally exploding into an espionage thriller of epic proportions!  ---- A word of warning, this and Larrson's other novels contain an abundance of sex, violence & language bordering on the gratuitous. While some may want to avoid it for this reason, it does bring attention to several of the most serious issues in the world today, i.e. human trafficking and abuse, by showing a realistic portrayal of how horrible they are.   

Next, on a suggestion by my Mom, I picked up the classic by Perl Buck: The Good Earth. With all the hundreds of historical fiction novels that I had to read in highschool, it is something of a wonder to me that I never read this. I was missing out. I've been very interested in China ever since we adopted my little sister from there. Even if you have no such interest however, you should enjoy this book, which tells the intriguing tale of a farmer rising through the ranks of Chinese society in the early days of the 20th century.

While good earth was excellent, before I had even finished it, I was on to the second novel in Stieg's posthumously published trilogy: The Girl Who Played with Fire. This book takes up where Dragon Tattoo left off, which you will be you will be very happy about if you fall in love with the characters from the first book the way I did. The Girl Who Played with Fire is a tad bit grittier, dealing more with the dark underside of human trafficking and drug smuggling, and ultimately exposing a conspiracy that stretches even farther than the first one, entangling the family members of the characters themselves!

After my second Larrson novel, I decided it was time for something to balance the Yang with the Ying, as it were. Thus, I started The Great Divorce by your friend and mine, C. S. Lewis. It's Lewis. Need I say more? I shouldn't have to, but just in case you're a doubter, The Great Divorce tells an imaginary tale that may or may not be close to reality, but at any rate gives us a picture of the difference between heaven and hell; good and evil. In the book, Lewis imagines himself having died and gone to hell, then having the opportunity to take a bus ride, along with some others to visit heaven. He brilliantly demonstrates how first, heaven and hell are real, and secondly, how hell is really just our natural state without God.

So, that's what I've read up till now. On my list to come is first Stieg's final novel,  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, and then I don't know. Perhaps some non-fiction to compensate for all this fiction. Or maybe I'll go back and read some books from my high school days. We have like six crates filled with them in the basement, and it's sometimes interesting to read things you read long ago and see how your perspective has changed.

Anyhow, that's my summer reading list.

- Andrew