Thursday, January 26, 2012

On Writing My "Why Teach?" Essay

I have to write a short essay about why I want to be a teacher in my Foundations of Education class. But, I'm having a hard time admitting that I'm going into teaching because I'm afraid I wouldn't make it as a writer. Or an actor. Or a musician. Or anything else.

Should I leave that out of the paper?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Stupid Little Update, Plus A Challenge

I feel like I'm making a high school MySpace blog post with this one, but I'm seriously in the mood for writing about what I've been into lately. As you might know, school started up for me this week, and this is how I've been surviving it.

Music I'm Listening To
End Measured Mile by Make Do and Mend
Grey Britain by Gallows
Death is Birth by Gallows
Let's Talk About Feelings (re-issue) by Lagwagon

Books I'm Reading
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I used some of my Christmas money to finally get some new music, which I'm glad I did. Now that classes at MAC have started up for me, I have a lot of time to listen to that music while driving to and from school. Gallows really satisfies my craving for some quality hardcore, and since Grey Britain is such a good album, I'll probably come back to it over and over again when I feel like listening to something on the heavier side of punk. Death is Birth is good, too, despite featuring an entirely new singer. Even for EP standards it's pretty short (four songs totaling 7-and-a-half minutes, one of them literally under 40 seconds), but it demonstrates how well the band is adapting to losing their previous front man Frank Carter (who carried a lot of weight in the band's songwriting) and welcoming their new one (who used to sing for Alexisonfire). Death is Birth has an uncharacteristically berserk feel for the band, but what that tells me is that the band isn't going to chase Frank Carter's shadow--rather, they're accepting the loss and taking on a new direction.

But for now, I'm done boring you with my tedious opinions about music, haha. Instead, I want to bore with something that came up while I was reading Tuesdays with Morrie (which I'm really liking, a bit to my surprise). While the main focus of the book is about Mitch Albom revisiting his old college professor Morrie Schwartz on his death bed, there are occasional flash backs to Mitch's college courses with Morrie. In one such flashback, Morrie convinces Mitch to write an honors thesis. Despite Mitch's initial hesitation, he eventually writes a 112-page thesis on how football has become ritualistic in American society.

Hold the phone, I thought. One hundred and twelve pages? I've never written anything even close to that length. Even my semester-long research paper for Comp 2 was little more than eight pages when I finished it, and that was the biggest writing assignment I've ever had. To me right now, it seems insane to write anything beyond 15 pages. It scares me to even think of it. I'm too accustomed to 3-5 page essays, a usual requirement for my college courses. But I realize if I want to be a better writer, I'm gonna have to write more than simple essays someday. Suppose I decide to write a novel? Can't very well fit one of those into 3-5 pages of intro-body-conclusion, can I? And what if I want to write short stories? Some of F. Scott Fitzgerald's best are well over 20 pages (at least in the compilation I've been reading).

So that's how I came up with this challenge. This year, I'm going to write something longer than anything I've ever written. In this case, it means I have to write something longer than 8 pages, so for now I'm shooting for 10. And after that, I'm going to write something longer yet. And I'll keep going until 112 pages doesn't seem like such a horrifying task.

As long as I've dragged out this blog post, I'm probably not off to a bad start, haha. One more thing before I wrap it up, though: I do want to say that I'm getting more out of Tuesdays with Morrie than dwelling over one detail completely inconsequential to the story's plot. I admire Morrie's outlook on life through the lens of death, and I wish more people would examine their lives as though they were dying. I know death is normally a morbid topic, but I think bearing your death in mind brings you closer to actually living. I think that's what Morrie is trying to teach Mitch, but I still have half the book to read.

Friday, January 6, 2012

People You May Know (Or Not)

"Add this person, you have 17 mutual friends!" Facebook tells me. But is that really a lot? I mean, 17 friends in common is only about 5% of my 300+ Facebook friends, and an even smaller percentage of her 600+ friends. Facebook recommends I add a lot of people I've never even met just because we have more than two mutual friends. And half the friend requests I get nowadays are from people I'm not eve sure I know--I have little doubt it's because people flip through their recommendations and add anyone with a seemingly large amount of common friends.

Facebook could curb such confusing instances if it based those friend recommendations on percentage of mutual friends, not just the number itself. For instance, it makes sense to recommend someone who shares 47% of your friend list, doesn't it? That could be hundreds of users, depending on your activity on the site. But what about someone who shares 47 of the 1028 friends on your list? That isn't even 5% common friends. What's even the point of saying you might know each other? Why doesn't Facebook skip the recommendation and find someone with higher percentage chance of you knowing them?

Of course, the percentage system isn't perfect. What may be only a handful of friends on your list could very well be half of someone else's. That's really the biggest problem with basing recommendations off of percentage of mutual friends: users with hundreds of friends could possibly see fewer recommendations than those who are new to the site or those who are stingy with the Add Friend button. And the likelihood of users finding it harder to expand their friend list after it grows beyond a certain point poses a great threat to a site that feeds off user connectivity as voraciously as Facebook does.

I suppose that's why Facebook bases friend recommendations on number of friends in common, though. =/

Monday, January 2, 2012

Messages Unsent

I made it a new year's resolution to write more often, thinking that I hadn't done enough during 2011, outside the writing required for classes. But writing is more than pencil and paper. I looked at my phone's drafts folder, where it saves text messages I type up but never send, and it turns out there are quite a few. They're mostly ideas for tweets that don't turn out as funny or witty as I intend, or one-liners for songs/poems I want to remember for later. Others are just thoughts and oddities I should write more to. Point is, I wrote more than I expected, even if it wasn't in my usual medium.

So, I thought I'd share a few of these drafts with you. Enjoy!

Songs that sound ineresting: An American Elegy, To Challenge the Sky and Heavens Above, Shenandoah by Frank Ticheli, The Whistler and His Dog
* * *
A pastor doing cartwheels. That's hilarious.
* * *
"If there is such a thing as going on strike from one's own culture, this is it." ~Matt Taibbi, on Occupy Wall Street
* * *
URGENT: Do NOT walk past band room between 1 and 2. Nick Shannon encounters imminent.
* * *
Overheard at MAC: "Junkyards are so existential."
* * *
11:11 is for people who can't count. It's their favorite time because it's all ones.
* * *
>People playing music from their phones and singing along to it.
* * *
Reminder: draw a P.O. Box
* * *

For some context, the songs that sound interesting are pieces of music I filed while working at MAC, and P.O. is supposed to stand for pissed off. I later drew a picture of a box yelling at the world. Yeah.

Also, mini tangent rant, I put the > < signs before the phrase, like in the ">People playing music..." draft. That's the way I first saw it done. Now I see tweets and Facebook updates like "Stepping out of a hot shower into a cold room<" where the signs come after the phrase. To me, it looks STUPID that way. I don't know why it started being done the other way around, but it needs to stop. Thank you.

To end this on a better note, I did get my hands on some new(ish) music. I got a Best Buy gift card for Christmas, and I spent some of it on the re-issue of Lagwagon's album Let's Talk About Feelings. Here's a track from it I've really been digging.