Sunday, February 27, 2011

Crossing the Iron Curtain

Sorry for not posting in a seven days. I was insanely busy all week, and then spent the weekend in such a state of relaxation that I didn't feel like posting.

On Tuesday and Thursday last week I had two relatively major papers due. I also had math homework from the week before (when I had two tests) to finish and submit late + my normal math homework + catching up on Spanish homework from the week before + my regular Spanish + research for a mock presidential cabinet in which I'm supposed to be Ronald Kirk, US trade rep. + a human interest thing I was supposed to be working on for the Triangle and an essay about a "cultural experience" for my missions class (which wasn't actually due that week, as it turned out, but I didn't know that).

By Monday night I was feeling so overwhelmed that I decided to write it all down on a piece of paper, which sometimes help me organize myself. In the end I got everything done but the piece for the Triangle––and that had more to do with the story falling through then with me not working on it. 

Saturday morning there was a campus activities fair for potential students who were on campus interviewing for the Presidents scholarship (the biggest academic scholarship Bryan gives out) and I helped out for an hour or two with the booth for the Triangle (or more just stood there as we ended up having more help than we needed).

That afternoon I walked down into Dayton. Without a car, getting off campus feels a little like crossing the iron curtain or something, because it's cut off from Dayton by a four lane highway with no crosswalks. So you have to either cross the highway, which is quite dangerous, or hop over a fence and go under a bridge, which is less dangerous, but adds to my feeling like criminal or refugee or something. Once you actually get there, Dayton is pretty nice to walk around in though, as it's small and rather flat.

This morning I went to Church in Chattanooga with a friend. It was an Anglican church, which I had never been to before. In fact, the only other liturgical church I'd ever been to before was a Catholic Cathedral two Easters ago in Graz, Austria–and they only spoke German. So this morning was a new experience for me. It was actually very good, and I think I shall end this post by commenting on the infinite superiority of of taking communion with real wine.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Free Climbing & Frisbee w/ Taylor Swift

 It was a good week/weekend. Really busy through Wednesday, but then Thursday was day of prayer and we got off from classes. One of the events for today was to go and pray with a group in the Pocket wilderness area, which is an abandoned mining zone with lots of mountains and ravines and waterfalls and other interesting topography. My suite-mates, Drew and Drew and I (also Drew), decided to break away from the group and climb up the face of Buzzard Point, which is a mountain/large hill with a huge rocky outcropping at the top (you can actually see it from campus, although it's several miles away.)

After hiking straight up the steepest part of the hill we decided to try and climb the face by going through a set of almost vertical tunnels and crevasses. I had never done any rock climbing before, so it was a new experience for me. I'm not particularly afraid of heights or claustrophobic, but after about fifteen minutes of squeezing through little fissures in the rock with a 15ft. drop that very rapidly turned into a 500ft. drop below, I found that my legs were shaking almost uncontrollably. Then I squeezed through one last hole that was the smallest yet, and was suddenly on top, and surround by grass and trees again instead of rocks... which was a very good feeling.
 We still had to climb up one last outcropping to get to the highest point, but that was comparably easy and the view from the top was great! The little plateau I took this picture from was isolated from the rest of the Point, so we had to take a pretty good leap over a crevasse to get to where we could hike down easily into the valley again.

From there week hiked about two miles down the hill, across the river, and up the other side of the valley to get to Laural Falls.
It's February of course, but that day it was in the upper sixties, and we were hot from hiking all day, so we went under the waterfall. I'm pretty sure that was the coldest water I've felt since that time I went swimming in a lake in the Dolomite Mountains in Austria in April. This seemed even colder though, because the water was moving.

I had a hard time believing I had never been to Pocket before even though I've been in Dayton for over a year now. I guess that day made up for it though, as I did just about everything you would normally do there. I also managed to do something I haven't since I was about eleven or twelve years old: skin both my knees and elbows. So it was with a definite sense of accomplishment that I left that evening.

Last night I went somewhere else that I had never been before: Nashville. I went with about six other people, only two of whom I really knew, to see a hockey game.

We started the evening by going to the burger joint that Jimmy Buffet allegedly wrote the song "Cheeseburgers In Paradise" about. We were there at the suggestion of one of my friend's friends, who allegedly has played Frisbee with Taylor Swift (he goes to Belmont, where she had a boyfriend for awhile). It would have been really cool, except that an entire boy scout troop showed up, and we had to wait almost two hours for our food. By the time we got it the game had already started. We ate as fast as we could, made a mad dash for the cars, got separated, lost, had a nightmare finding parking, and missed the first period of the game. Fortunately no one scored during the first period though.

I hadn't been to a hockey game since I was nine or so, but I enjoyed it a lot. I didn't really even follow what was happening that closely... the atmosphere of a hockey game is just fun to be in.

After that we had to find our way out of Nashville, which took a while, and probably wasn't aided by our singing along with really loud MGMT... but it was fun.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mid-Semester Blues

It's getting to be that time in the semester when the rush from new challenges starts to wear off and no matter how crazy my routine may be, it is still that: a routine, and my main thought is "now I have to keep doing this for the next three months. blah."

Well it's not really quite that bad. I'll be going to Nashville for the first time ever this weekend, and the number of days between now and Break for Change is growing rather small. In fact, all things considered, this will probably be my most exciting and un-monotonous semester yet. Still, I think I'm starting to get that mid-semester feeling when it's still much too far to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have my first in-class test for Spanish this week, and my first test for Contemporary Math. After reviewing the concepts that I have to know for the Spanish one today, I feel like it will go at least somewhat better than I had thought before. I can't say that for the math one. I've really only understood about 40% of everything that we're supposed to have learned by now. It's a survey course, and our professor promised that the concepts would get easier as we went on. For this first test I have no idea what I'm going to do though.

The weather has been quite beautiful the last couple days. In the 60s with blue skies. If the wind would stop blowing so hard it would be perfect, but then, it is February, so I shouldn't complain. Back home I think they had about two feet of snow last week.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Grass Skirts and Such

This past Saturday my Break for Change team had its long awaited fundraiser breakfast. We had originally planned to do a Christmas themed pancake breakfast, but after poor planning, procrastination, and losing our Santa costume to a school play, we decided to postpone the idea until this semester. The obvious problem then was that we could no longer have a Christmas theme, because it was now February. Fortunately, someone had the bright idea to go in the complete opposite direction and do a Hawaiian themed breakfast, with banana pancakes, pineapple pancakes, blueberry pancakes (which is not really Hawaiian, but they were delicious anyways), and several other things.

This time we made sure that we actually planned it out and advertised, and we were expecting at least 20 to 30 people to show. When we opened at 8:30, we weren't expecting anyone to be there that early, but a whole crowed came, and kept coming. By the time it was over, we had served somewhere around 70 people, which is a lot more than we were expecting.

I somehow got appointed the unofficial liaison between the our group and the cafeteria, and because of the extra people, I had to make four or five unplanned trips to stock up on fruit and coffee and things like that, which was tiring, but fine as we made about twice as much money as I had estimated we would.
The next day I was feeling tired from the fundraiser and kind of depressed (for reasons unrelated to the fundraiser) and decided not to go to church. I also had no intention of going to watch the superbowl either, but over lunch, my friend Steve, who will be coming with me to Latvia, invited me to a party near Chattanooga.

I didn't really watch much of the game, because I was working on homework, but early that afternoon, I played three extremely intense games of ultimate frisbee. I had a number of collisions, almost dislocated my shoulder, and am still sore from it today. It was fun though, and I'm glad I ended up going.

PS. I feel like this post should include some kind of tribute to Brian Jacques, one of my favorite authors from my early teens, who passed away a few days ago. It's been a number or years since I read the Redwall series though, so I'm not sure what I'd write, but I felt I should at least mention him.

Friday, February 04, 2011


After my last class at three today I went down to Rudd Auditorium to meet with some of the people I'll be going to Latvia with in a little over a month.

We decided that we would film a documentary sort of thing to introduce ourselves/show what Bryan College looks like (the teams have been going for five or six years now, and as far as we know, none of them have ever done this).

One of our leaders, T.K. had just bought this awesome new canon 60D and a boom mic, so it was really fun to play around with that stuff, even if we did look a little awkward trailing around campus with all of it.

Interesting story - after they had filmed my introduction and I was showing 'them' around the cafeteria on the video tour, this guy completely tripped and fell on his face right in front of the camera. It looked pretty natural, but we kind of suspected he had done it on purpose. That night I had a class with him asked about it, and he did in fact mean to do it. We kept the take, so I wonder what the kids in LimbaĹži will think when they see it? 

I seem to be miraculously done with my homework for the week. That's good though, because tomorrow I have to try and catch up on my story for Triangle this week. I haven't really worked on it at all yet. Speaking of that though, my two stories that I've written so far are live now, so if you're at all interested, they are here and here

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Symbolic Logic & Sea Cucumbers

I've had a lot of ridiculous homework this week. In contemporary math, which everyone told me was supposed to be an easy course, we've been going through symbolic logic. To the left you can see my pitiful attempts at creating circuits from truth tables.

It's really fairly interesting, because this is sort of the way that computers work... but I'd rather let someone who is smarter than me think about it. Speaking of people who work on computers though, interviewed a few of them for my article for the Triangle this week. It's about these guys who created a photo sourcing app for bloggers called Wylio.

That one won't get published for a couple days yet, but my article from last week is up on the Triangle website. It's under the sports section if you're interested. Several people said they liked it, but I still feel like this week's will be a lot better in general, since it was a topic that I'm actually interested in.

Anyhow, I have to go eat now, but you should check Wylio out. You can find legally usable photos of just about anything... like say, a sea cucumber.

Tubercle sea cucumberphoto © 2008 Matt Kieffer | more info (via: Wylio)