Hiatus is halfway done!

Hello, and welcome back! You might not have noticed, but I haven’t written for the blog in the last two weeks. Maybe this isn’t so preposterous, as during college or some of my lower points, I would go a couple of months without blogging, but the last two years I’ve been pretty adamant about posting at least once or twice a week, so somewhere in the back of my mind I get a little peeved about the fact that I haven’t been writing little news stories for you, for the last 15 days.

So! This is the halfway point during my speech where I inform you that I’ve made a proclamation to focus my attention on Camp NaNoWriMo, whereby my writing attentions are solely directed toward fiction. I made a Facebook post publicizing the fact, but just in case you’ve been refreshing this page every other day, looking for new content, and you’ve been sorely disappointed, now you know why!

There you have it. Congratulations to all participating in the month-long marathon that is NaNoWriMo. Starting Aug. 1, you can expect to see a flurry of new blog posts (I have, like, five potentials up my sleeve).

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The sure-fire way to get a job in Minnesota

If you live in Minnesota, you might have noticed simple signs touting, “Now Hiring”, all over the Twin Cities. The economy is booming up here in the Midwest. Whether you’re looking for summer work or something more full-time, look no further than the nearest cross-street.

Who’s hiring?

  • Trucking companies

    hiring-truckers
    via R & J Trucker Blog

    They’re always looking for drivers to haul our general merchandise around. When you’re stuck in traffic on the way home tomorrow, jot down the number on the back of the semi in front of you. Having a CDL is required, but some companies pay for training.

  • Manufacturing companies

    via Venture Outsource
    via Venture Outsource

    Minnesota is known for its prowess in the realm of steel, flour, and all the essentials that serve as the backbone for modern society. If you’re hardworking and you’ve got some cojones, put your car in park and call the number on the sign sticking out of the grass in that cul-de-sac you so love to traverse through day-in, day-out. You may soon have the privilege of getting a workout while you’re at work. (KING is also hiring. Visit kingconnect.com for details.)

  • McDonald’s

    McDonald's
    via McDonald’s

    One of the largest companies in the U.S. also happens to have one of the largest turn-over rates for employees. Feeling a little like Chris McCandless and want to give your butt a break after all that hitchhiking you’ve been doing this summer? Pop into your nearest McDonald’s and fill out an application. You’re likely to get yourself a job there, no questions asked. Plus! You’re significant other will just adore you when you come home smelling like greasy French fries. Yum.

  • World of Beer

    via World of Beer
    via World of Beer

    They’re opening up a new location in Downtown St. Paul, and they’re looking for happy, smiling faces to corral patrons to the trough. Of course, you’d probably rather work at Bedlam, right around the corner and listen to live music while you work, but this will do in a pinch.

 

And there are plenty of other places that are hiring in Minnesota.

So, if you’re looking for a job in a state where foreclosed houses loom like old ghosts and abandoned shopping malls spell dread for even the most accidental tourist, move to Minnesota*.

Forego those laborious internet applications, where you have to type your skill set in quixotic fields over and over to the point where you’ve already stultified yourself long before you’ve even received the automatic reply email. Just walk right up to some shady place with the “Now Hiring” sign clinging to the window. Make a little buckage, and move onto better pastures.

Now, you’re living in the 90s and beating the system. How neat is that?

*I am not being paid by the Minnesota government to recruit out-of-towners, I just like this state. All of the above statements are true.

 

Feature image via DNA Footwear

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Realizations of a nonplussed serpent on the rise of something great, yet unsure

I can facilitate, orchestrate, cheer lead, and purchase things, but I’m not a good decision maker. I’m realizing this about myself.

I’ll instinctively purchase a mic that’s $300 because I believe it’s high quality, merely based on price and the hour’s worth of research I performed before pressing the “Place Order” button.

Only to come to find out the transmitter and receiver are solid, but I need to buy a separate lapel clip for another $300 to get the sound quality we’re striving for, to do voice overs at work.

I have found a sense of balance however. I used to be inconsistent. I was a different person at work, compared with who I was at home or with different groups of friends. A shapeshifter, maybe. A selkie, if you will. But I’ve long since shed that unfamiliar skin and grew into some kind of chameleon hybrid instead.

I think I know who I am now, at 26 and a half.

I used to be highly concerned with what people thought of me. Did they view me differently with straight hair? Contacts or glasses? Do I feel different when invisible? Does my own altered perception of reality influence the actions of others around me?

The answer is no. I am who I was from the get-go. John Locke was wrong. We’re not all tabula rasa, but something else entirely.

No destiny to speak of, we’re already programmed with personalities, we just have to find the truth deep within and come to terms with it.

 

Featured image via THE DIGITAL COUNTER-REVOLUTION

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Growing backwards, and moving forward

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

– Pablo Picasso

Something Paul Lisicky wrote in his latest book triggered something in me. He was once in the habit of posting quotes from Catcher in the Rye on Twitter. One post, in particular, spiked some angst amongst his followers.

“… that all legitimate religious study must lead to unlearning the differences, the illusory differences, between boys and girls, animals and stones, day and night, heat and cold.”

One argued that it’s impossible to unlearn something, but I believe it is possibleDon’t be afraid to build a foundation for knowledge that you can tear down later.

For example: Writing essays. We were taught the 1-3-1 method, where you have your introduction, three body/supporting paragraphs (one example, described in detail, with anecdotes if possible), and a conclusion to wrap it up. In the first paragraph, you open with a powerful statement, a hook, or a question and the last sentence is your thesis, typically including a summary of the three topics you’re planning on discussing in the subsequent paragraphs. The conclusion is basically the same paragraph as the introduction, just worded differently. We were also taught that we should “brainstorm” before we begin, or draw out a web to plot our devices. How stiff and stolid these methods were. There’s no room for improvement here. Then again, the structure of the story might as well have been implemented as a tool to help teachers more easily skim student’s works while they’re lazily grazing on a microwaved meal, propped up on a tray table in front of the TV.

Then you get to college and your professors ask for a six-page paper, no rules, no guidelines, just don’t plagiarise. All right. I can work with this. Let the rants inspired by poorly cited scholarly journals begin!

Leaning toward a more esoteric of model for growth, how satisfying is it to think, “Hey, my parents forced me to sit at the kitchen table until all of the food was gone from my plate, and I’ll be damned if I keep that tradition alive. Come to think of it, I’ll raise my own kids without boundaries. Hell, I might even let them size their own portions, teach them to think about what they’re putting in their bodies. Why not home school them, while we’re at it?”

Along those lines, why can’t we change our minds? We’ve evolved to adapt to living in noise-infested cities as much as we’ve learned to steel our stomachs against high fructose corn syrup. Our nerves are fried, our digestive systems are all gunked up, and it’s just wrong, isn’t it? It’s a privilege to be able to take control of the trajectory of our lives, to be able to put ourselves in the positions of children and take a sick day to restore our mental health. We’re adults, but we don’t have to think like adults. We can play, we can make mistakes, and we can say ridiculous things, make up new words, if we like.

Last night, my fiancé and I were playing Super Nintendo and I was going back through a level, when he said I should never go backward, always forward. This is the one case in which you can safely stray from the “Always forward, never backward,” mantra.

Just look at us. We do what we want. Let’s grow backwards, I say. Society has tamped down our will to create, instead laying the brickwork for self-confidence, modesty, and responsibility in all things. To hell with it. We’ll make our own way. Smash down the walls of our parents’ designs and carve our own paths. We’ll make a mess and that’s OK.

This sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

pablo (28)

 

Featured image created using Pablo by Buffer

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Why I’m no longer watching Game of Thrones

*Spoilers: If you haven’t seen se6e02, then don’t read this*

First and foremost, it’s all very predictable, really. Aria Stark was just getting good at something, losing herself in the kill, and fighting for a righteous cause–survival. And Sansa has always been a bit of a pansy, let’s be honest. Tyrion’s not doing a lot of anything, except for trying to tame dragons with sheer wit (not surprising, as he’s been doing this metaphorically throughout the series, except now in episode two of season six, he’s actually attempting such a feat physically).

And Jon Stark is alive again. We all knew this would happen, right? I, personally, thought the White Walkers would take him; there was this nonverbal connection between the two leaders of the clans at one point in the last season.

Either way, what a downer. And to see the Red Woman naked, aged to her appropriate stature (what is she, 120 years old?) was kind of a let down.

Trying to introduce this series to anyone two episodes into the sixth season is one of the worst ways to spend your night.

Now, if you were to show a friend any random episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that would warrant a rockin’ time, in my opinion, but don’t just show someone Game of Thrones mid-season, especially if the show has started careening downhill.

 

Featured image via SCREEN RANT

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What are you saying with your body?

One billion people speak Chinese, four million speak Spanish, with English trailing behind at three million. Seems like an exorbitant amount of people speak English, right? Well, think again.

There’s another way of communicating that no one really talks about: Body Language.

This universal constant can get you by on the bus (when asking a fellow rider for fare, rub your hands together) or on the sidewalk (glance over at someone’s lips when they’re smoking a cigarette), but some people don’t consciously use this tool as a way to communicate with others.

Have you ever talked with someone who said they would love to go out for drinks, Friday night, yet their eyes gave them away instead? Inside, they’re thinking, “No, I actually don’t want to go out with you. At all,” and you’re too busy checking your Yelp account, looking for the appropriate attire to wear to said event, totally oblivious to what the person is saying, without using words.

via Watta Lyf
via Watta Lyf

Next time you’re holding a conversation with someone, why don’t you look at the way they’re standing, or where they’re looking. Are they crossing their arms, closing themselves off? Or are their eyes busy searching the ceiling, looking for an out to the increasingly uncomfortable one-sidedness of the entire affair?

Paying close attention to a person’s posture could also come in handy during a meeting with the higher-ups. Watch their eyebrows when you bring up a new idea. Are they arching in surprise? Or perhaps just one is raised, which could mean that they are skeptical of your next big brilliant design. Pay attention to the way they’re sitting, too. Do they seem more relaxed or are they leaning over into their phone, completely ignoring you?

Subtle social cues can be used to supplement a conversation in almost every situation the next time you’re asking for a raise, or trying to ask someone out on a date.

Just something to think about.

Featured image via Philosoraptor quick meme

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The Myopic Generation: An Experiment in Progress

There’s a social experiment in the works, here. It all started with a conversation at the local liquor store. During the latest transaction, the proprietor motioned toward my glasses and mentioned that her daughter had poor eyesight, but she could see 20/20 herself. Why is that, she asked? We discussed the issue at hand, reasoning that perhaps tech was to blame. I promised her I would investigate this matter further, and here I present my findings as provided partly by my own experiences with nearsightedness (myopia) and myriad articles I found online (via tech, of course, further subjecting myself to the further propagation of this perpetual problem.)

Purpose:

To find out why people believe that new generations of humans will have exponentially bad eyesight

Hypothesis:

Muscles typically used for long-distance vision atrophy as today’s technologically-centric humans train their eyes to focus on objects 6-12″ away.

Research:

  • “Children today have grown up with technology always at their fingertips. It seems as if kids learn how to use a smartphone or tablet before they learn to walk. Whether it’s playing the latest game or doing homework, technology permeates a child’s life and does so at a young age. Because this is a new phenomenon, not much is known about the long-term impact of computers or other digital gadgets on pediatric eyes. However, eye care providers have reported seeing an increase in cases of myopia, or nearsightedness. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 34 million Americans suffer with myopia, a number that is projected to rise to nearly 40 million by 2030.ix Although there is no one specific cause for the increase, scientists point to a mix of genetic and environmental factors, including increasing near-range activities such as the use of digital devices, and decreasing exposure to natural light through outdoor activities.x Digital eye strain can also affect children and teens, whose eyes may fatigue after long periods of use. Computers and smartphones are often tied to every facet of a young person’s life—from school to socializing, there is little respite from the constant use of technology. ” (via The Vision Council)
  • “Single-vision minus lenses for full-time use produce accommodative insufficiency associated with additional symptoms until the patient gets used to the lens. This is usually accompanied by a further increase in myopia and the cycle begins anew.” – Martin H Birnbaum (1973), Review of Optometry  (via Improve Vision Naturally)
  • “Modern living has sparked something of a myopia epidemic. Our children are spending more of their free time indoors watching TV and playing video games than generations of the past, and their long distance vision is suffering.

    In China, a massive 76% of lower middle school students are already nearsighted. Education officials now see to it that Chinese students perform eye exercises twice a day in order to tackle the myopia epidemic.

    In contrast, countries whose cultures place more emphasis on sports and outdoor living – such as Australia and New Zealand – have among the lowest occurrence of nearsightedness in the world. The solution, then, is to spend more time outdoors and actually using your long distance vision.

    Like any muscle – even like your brain – if you stop using your eyes they can become weak. If you’re nearsighted, you probably spend a lot of time indoors performing close-up tasks and your long distance vision has become weak. You can correct this by enjoying the great outdoors more frequently and focusing in the long distance.” – Improve Vision Naturally

Background

Studies show that myopia may passed down genetically, or it may be caused by a steady decline in eyesight, due to external environmental factors. In my case, both my mother and father have almost perfect eyesight. They’re parents also had perfect eyesight. And my great grandparents? I’ve never seen them wear glasses, either. I’ve thought this over, long and hard, and the first implication of the onset of my condition is enmeshed in a memory from the age of 2-years-old or so, when I walked outside, taking a breather from the otherworldly confusion ensuing from the TV as my older sister watched Munsters with her friend on TV. I found myself staring at the sun. What pretty colors there were to be found there. After staring at the TV screen, almost believing the world to consist of the grey-scale palette featured on the show, I saw hues of purple interchanged with blue and red and yellow and the whole UV spectrum seemed to open up to me. Who knows how long I let my retina erode at such an early age. You wouldn’t know it to recognize me today, as we have the most fashionable eyeglasses currently in creation (See: Warby Parker, my chosen frames and contacts, of course) but I have myopia. I actually have astigmatism, which means that instead of seeing the horizon as a flat plane, my eyes actually tilt flat planes into 45 degree diagonals. The average human being may see a little fuzziness around the edges, but I see double. Call me four-eyes, if you will, but when I look at the sun today, the glaring heat giant in the sky looks to be 10 times its size, as my eyes blur the multiple versions of the same object into one, without definition, disproportionate in scale.

After reading a few articles on the subject, I can’t help but think that while part of our brains have evolved over the centuries (See: Multi-tasking abilities, problem-solving skills, overall sense of urgency and a need for productivity) while another crucial part of our anatomy has devolved (See: Paleolithic-era hunters, scanning the horizon for enemies).

The future generations of humans will focus ever more closely to objects within a foot from their faces, and quite frankly (and this is the sci-fi part of me speaking to you, now) we won’t even have to strain our eyes that far, because we’ll probably have contacts within the internet embedded right in the soft faux-factory-induced-plastic material we’ve voluntarily subsumed into our ocular anatomy by the 22nd century.

There’s also somewhat of a spiritual-awakening trend taking place as we speak. Something about seeing what’s right in front of you… “living in the moment”. These messages are secretly seeping into our subconscious. Why worry about the future when you should focus on the here-and-now? Likewise, that object in the distance? Don’t look at that. It’s not important. Focus on the task at hand. The task! Complete it. Now.

Experiment:

To roll with my childhood intuition (or abhorrence toward wearing glasses), I’ll go two days without glasses or contacts and register the time it takes for me to register a headache, and I’ll use the pinhole method (the natural equivalent to using a pair of binoculars to focus on one object at a time) in favor of letting my otherwise lazy eyes strain themselves to focus on objects close up while I’m wearing glasses strategically engineered to sharpen objects at a distance (counter-intuitive, perpetuating the cycle mentioned in Improve Vision Naturally article.)

On Day 1:

I will read from a book (close-at-hand) and after 20 minutes, will stare out the window for 20 minutes, training my eyes to adjust from their natural (or unnatural, at this point?) nearsighted tendencies to focusing on objects at a distance.

On Day 2:

I should be able to focus on objects farther than 20 feet away, without incurring an immediate headache. I should become comfortable looking into the distance, without immediately finding myself fighting the instinct to grab for my glasses. Reading from a book less than a foot in front of my face should feel as natural as focusing on a rabbit running across the pavement on the street below, more than 20 feet away from the window.

Measurement:

This is a hard one. How can someone measure their ability to focus on objects in the distance, when they have made the habit of assuming said objects are out-of-focus? I suppose it’s all about comfort, yeah? I will go a weekend without corrective lenses, and exercise my eye muscles to focus on objects in the distance. Meanwhile, I will record my observations. Success will be measured by my comfort level at Day 1 versus Day 2. I know this is not a lot of time for such an extravagant endeavor, but I believe that by Day 2, I can train my brain to receive light signals off in the distance, instead of turning on all of the lights in the house so that I may focus on a single object close at hand. The method of measurement will be comfort. I will rate my level of comfort using an eye-strain, pain threshold such as 1 equals “little to no pain” and 5 equals “total annihilation of the senses, beginning with the eyes.”

Conclusion:

I will share the results of this experiment on my Twitter page. Just a short, little, 140-character snippet of my findings.

 

Featured image via Little Four Eyes

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Back in the day, short headlines were good headlines

Now, it seems like we have to pack every inch of cyberspace with SEO-expurgated copy, GIF ads, color-BAM!, and sound-WHUM! Until our brains are glitching out in time with our poor, broke back browsers.

Gone are the days when puns were artfully hidden within the tiny folds of a headline precariously placed between what precious little space was available on the physical page.

I, for one, was never all that good at coming up with headlines. By that I mean, I could spit out 10 or 20 phrases, each with words that might stick to the fly paper, but mostly it’s crapola. The best way to come up with a good headline is to stand around with your friends, teeth unconsciously grazing thumbnails, heads bowed in reverent concentration, and whisper things like, “Can you kern that line a little?” and “Try 18.265 pt., see if that does it.”

And the phrases go flying:
“Should it rhyme?”
“What do you think about alliteration?”
“Putting ‘killer’ in front of ‘baby’ makes it seem like Chucky’s little monster infant is out there, stalking the streets, hungry for blood.”

Oh, and most of your ideas get shot down in a real newsroom. I’m talkin’ about people cursing each other out. Stress at its peak. Deadlines stretching the time between two minutes like a chasm into which you could pitch the entire orchestra that is your soul’s longing to opine about anything you’re most passionate about, while simultaneously it’s like you’d blink and your story’s past due. Finito. “You’re no longer allowed to write for us.”

tumblr_nt55cxTKGP1uqfp9do3_500
Oh, no, I’m fine. I got this.

Flash forward five years and you’re a different person. You’ve changed with the tides, so to speak, ever evolving with the shifting sea of short attention spans and long-winded titles for articles that might not even have anything relatable in the body. It’s all so marketable now and “Is your landing page up to par?” and “How many clicks did I get today” and “I need more views on my video, so I can look like a badass, like I know what I’m doing and the numbers will prove my worth to all of society!”

Phew. It’s exhausting thinking about how fast things change around here, but really, who are we without change?

I was thinking about this on the way to work today, about Decartes’ clean slate and I’m still trying to figure out which side of the debate I lean towards. Part of me is all, “Mhmm, well, Carl Jung made a point there, with his structure of the Hero’s Journey, like, there’s something to this collective conscious-type instinct we have for speech and predilection towards religion…” So, like I said, still straddling the fence, here. Can people change or are we programmed from Day 1?

“I, too, need structure. A little fucking discipline.”
– Jane Burnham, American Beauty

Overall, I think I miss structure. Though there aren’t exactly enough hours in the day to do everything I was to do (five months since my “resolution” article and I still haven’t learned how to play guitar), but I’m still pretty much free to goof off. And no one’s telling me if I’m doing a good job.

School was degrading at times, depressing at times, sometimes passing through me as if I were made of fog, but at least I had some kind of system whereby I was graded on my progress in life! And college was life for a while, something to focus on, something to believe in. Now, as an “adult”, I’m just making it up as I go along.

It’s kind of like my “profession” in general. We’re all just making it up as we go along. We can show off some analytics and say, “Oh, hey. That’s working,” and “Look, this guy came to our site at 1:05 p.m. through a link I sent him in our eblast and then he purchased an item,” and yes, there are percentages and scenarios and A/B testing, but is that what journalism is about? Being the ultimate crowd-pleaser?

This may be part of my quarterly, semi-silent, psychotic rant phase, but there are times when I, too, feel a sense of doubt. Having read Orwell to pieces, I still can’t help but feel like “slavery is freedom” and when we’re put in chains, we at least have something to push back against, we have a need to find creative ways out of our situations. But, what if your life is like this big net of creativity? How can you tell you’re being creative, really, or are you just assigning yourself the label, wham, bam, thank you, ma’am?

901-On-the-Waterfront
Coulda woulda shoulda

Sometimes I feel I’m being sucked into the tar, and immortalizing these crappy sentences I throw together in some stupendous rage, all because I thought something was interesting (I can’t blog on a consistent basis, because I find random things bloggable, at random times).

But, I mean, is it? Do you like it? Do you? And does it matter much anyway, in the large scheme of things? Part of me feels like I missed a crucial step in becoming a legitimate journalist. I could have traveled more, I could have fought for the rights of the underdog, like I was taught to do through sharing facts and quotes. I could have been another Marie Colvin, who lost her life in defense of pursuing the truth, through any means necessary. Another part of me is sitting pretty, thinking that this life ain’t so bad, and I’m kind of comfy in this chair, though it’s probably making my butt pancake-flat over time.

Who knows. Writing it out kind of makes me feel better, though. I mean, a physical diary just doesn’t quite cut the mustard, when I can satisfy my inner-adolescent’s need to merge tech with words with images and all of the above. Sure, I think I could have thrived in the newspaper world, pre-blogs, but who’s worse off in the end?

This whole thing really just started because I wanted an A+ on my headline test

And now that we’ve got THIS out of the way, there are a few things I’m tossing around up there in my noggin. It’s like playing Hot Potato with blog ideas:

  • On Reading Translated Works
    • Focusing on Truck Stop Rainbows by Iva Pekárková
  • Kombucha Tea
    • Guess the fermenting process is good for your gut. Does the same go for drinking beer, or what?
  • Is it just me or is the 50s-style of singing crooners coming back with reinforced, warbling vigor?
    • See: Tripswitch, others
  • The Future is Unclear–Literally
    • Inspired by a conversation I had with the proprietor at my local liquor store. She observed that her children have bad eyesight, but she sees 20/20. Is there some link here, between focusing on iPads and books (she said her daughter’s a READER!) allowing the muscles that propitiate foresighted-focusing to atrophy from disuse?
  • Nielsen Data
    • The nation is watching itself watch itself watch itself watch itself
  • 10 Ways to Kill Time at the Office While Simultaneously Staying Productive
    • I have some weird ideas for this one, for sure
  • The Cure is coming to town, June 7
  • Lab Girl – a book I want to read

Well, that’s pretty much it for now. I feel like a career hot-air balloon that’s finally descended back down to Earth to gather up its skirts and take a little cat nap.

Maybe this weekend, I’ll take up the keys and drop some knowledge on ya! ‘Til then.

understand
I’m not bald, okay? I shaved my head. Do you understand?”  – Kill Bill

 

Featured image via A Blogger’s Corner

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