Archive for the ‘info’ Category

College

Dear Planet Earth,

Imagine a world (a world part of your amazing vast world, planet Earth!) where the gift of privacy has been smuggled away from your in one fell swoop, where conversations with friends consist of talk about how the friend of somebody’s friend got so wasted last night and was spewing all over the bathroom and partying for hours on end, where if you don’t get to sleep before 11pm on a weekend, you’ve got to wait until at least 4am in order to drift off peacefully to the land of sheep jumping fences, where your entire life is centered around balance of academic life, social life, and of course, sleep, and where every task needed to be accomplished is done by you, for you. Yes, this is life, hitting you on the side of the head, grabbing a megaphone and yelling into your ear: wake up! There can only be one title applied to such a place: college. And most importantly, world, I’ve entered through its gates this 18th of August 2011 in order to be lead to a hopefully successful career path in the field of civil and environmental engineering.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve adjusted pretty well over the past three months to this completely new lifestyle. I’ve gotten involved a pretty great deal with a wide variety of clubs and organizations. I’m on the Outreach Committee for Structural Engineers Association, in which I am helping to coordinate events. I’m part of Concrete Canoe, helping out with preparing mixes of concrete and aggregates in order to prepare a mixture that will have a density less than one and still have the structural integrity to be molded into a boat that will win in competition. I’m part of iInvent, which is an inventing club that works with ideas and tries to actually work its way towards patenting a product. I’m part of Horticulture Club,  where I am given the opportunity to hear talks from experts on gardening and visit orchards and botanical gardens. Lastly, I’m part of Club Insecta, which is an entomology club that goes on trips to look at nature and collect specimens.

I’ve been keeping pretty busy over this time. I’ve been trying to avoid doing any form of drugs or alcohol and keeping away from late night partying. My roommate and I have nothing at all in common, given my many attempts to try and express who I am, nor do we engage in small talk, which makes conversations within the dorm room rather awkward and short.I suppose I can’t have it how I want all the time, but I’m glad that we both respect each others’ space and treat each other fairly well. I’ve gotten to know a lot of my classmates from high school a lot better over the past couple of months, forming stronger bonds. I’m still been more of an independent person, only relying on the slim chance of “bumping into someone I know” to actually hang out and have fun together, it seems like texting or Facebook messaging doesn’t truly work in a setting like this. If I truly need someone to talk to, I would really just end up knocking on a person’s door. I’ve been doing quite of bit of reading in my own time. I finished the massively long 1000 page novel of The Instructions by Adam Levin and have started getting into Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch recently. My campus is located in a micro-urban town, which is basically a huge number of people centered in a small region in the middle of nowhere. Despite the small part of urban, there really isn’t that much to do here. I’ve mainly just been taking trips by bus to the mall area and have spent my time away from the densely packed campus by sticking to calm, peaceful, open atmosphere bookstores to settle down and read or browse. Speaking of buses, the transit system at my campus is absolutely incredible. I don’t ever have to wait more than three minutes at a bus stop during the week in order to get somewhere I want to go. I’ve integrated the transit lines into my memory and have adapted very well to my environment.

College is just another element of life for me. It’s yet another wild beast that I need to tame in order to get on and keep riding.

 I know this post was rather dry, world, I really just have to catch up and gain a sense of comfort with writing on WordPress again before I delve into some deeper subjects.

Michael

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Top 10 Favorite Artists of 2010

Over the year of 2010, my interest in music has increased tenfold. I had first received an iPod at the beginning of the year, knowing close to nothing about where my music interest laid. Pop? Rock? Alternative? I had no idea how to even classify the music that I found appealing to my eardrums. It took gradual experimentation to figure out the music that was right for me. Here are my top 10 favorite artists:

10. 30 Seconds To Mars.
Favorite Song: Kings and Queens
Favorite Album: This Is War

Source of Discovery: Trailer for the movie, Legend of the Guardians.
One word: epic. Ever since hearing a censored fragment of the song Kings and Queens in a movie trailer, I knew that this band had something unique about their voice. This song, along the rest of their most recent album This Is War, reminded me of the action, suspense, and drama associated with movies. I love how all of the songs tie back to the main theme of the album. Although the screaming voice of the lead singer Jared Leto takes a while to get used to, the mood of the music and voice is so genuine that just about every song paints a picture in your mind as you listen.


9. Motion City Soundtrack
Favorite Song: Pulp Fiction
Favorite Album: My Dinosaur Life
Source of Discovery: Saw most recent album on the homepage of iTunes
Growing up, I had heard music from this band, but it wasn’t until my discovery of the iPod that I started to pay attention to the sound and message of their music. The sound of their most recent album, My Dinosaur Life, struck me as particularly captivating; not only that but the cover art is incredible! I had noticed that the vocalist of the group, Justin Pierre, had more of a matured voice and catchier melody in this most recent album, which lead me towards investigation. Although their songs are mainly explicit and the lyrics are somewhat odd, the emotions associated with each song packs a powerful punch to the listener. This upbeat music is great to listen to when caught in a bad mood.


8. Jonsi/ Sigur Ros
Favorite Song: Grow Till Tall
Favorite Album: Go
Source of Discovery: Trailer for the Disney movie, Earth
What drew me in to this music was the impressive instrumental noise and talented voice of the vocalist Jonsi Birgisson. After hearing nature-inspired sounds in the trailer for Earth, I was drawn into the beauty and peace of this incredible harmony of instruments and voice. Jonsi is Icelandic, and so part of the lyrics of his songs are in his native language. This particular music seems to stand out from every genre I’ve come to be familiar with, which is what drew me towards continuing to listen to it. Their music may take a while to grow accustomed to, but it definitely is worth checking out.


7. Matt & Kim
Favorite Song: Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare
Favorite Album: Grand

Source of Discovery: Earlier episode of the television series, Community
The duo Matt and Kim attracted me because their music reminds me of diversion and independence. Their rather stunning choice of instrumental backup may make their music sound raw and unappealing, but it definitely adds to their message of a carefree and nonjudgmental commotion. After hearing Matt & Kim play their most popular song Daylight at Lollapalooza in August, my belief was confirmed that these two artists and performers are wild and loose in not just their music, but their behavior, which makes them seem authentic by holding true to the sound of their music. Their new album comes out on November 2nd, so I’m definitely excited to hear their new material.


6. Owl City/ Sky Sailing
Favorite Song: A Little Opera Goes A Long Way
Favorite Album: An Airplane Carried Me To Bed

Source of Discovery: Word of mouth from sister
Owl City was the first -and only- artist under the genre of electronic music that appealed to me. I’ve found that this music eases the labor of doing homework and helps me brainstorm because the overall sound of each song leads at a miraculous opening of the mind.  The calm, passive voice of singer Adam Young adds a key element to why I enjoy this music. My favorite is his non-electronic album, An Airplane Carried Me to Bed, which is the most relaxing blend of instrument and voice I have ever heard. The cover artwork is absolutely stunning, creative, and beautiful. The music video for the song Brielle takes listeners on a peaceful, magical ride through Adam Young’s imagination.


5. Jukebox the Ghost
Favorite Song: The Stars
Favorite Album: Everything Under the Sun

Source of Discovery: Live at Lollapalooza 2010
This relatively unknown band definitely deserves some recognition. Jukebox the Ghost may not have the most powerful of lyrics, but the sound of their music is cheerful, catchy and playful. Every song on their most recent album, Everything Under the Sun, has a unique sound that is a result of the band members’ experimentation with different melodies. One of my friends has noted that their use of the piano is absolutely groundbreaking and shows the far extent of their talent. My encounter with this band live during Lollapalooza sparked something within me. Even without the use of voice enhancers and autotune, this band still creates amazing music unlike a large majority of popular artists.


4. Bruno Mars
Favorite Song: Count On Me
Favorite Album: It’s Better If You Don’t Understand EP

Source of Discovery: Heard on the radio with B.o.B. in Nothing on You
Although he is best known for the popular song, Just The Way You Are, there is another side to the music of this maestro. What I admire about Bruno Mars is that he uses his natural voice and his Hawaiian background in his music. He definitely has a wide range of sounds, from a slower Caribbean reggae to a swinging, fast-paced pop. I love how he approaches and executes genuine mainstream music from a unique angle and adds his own lifestyle to several of his songs, such as with The Lazy Song. Bruno Mars’ voice has reached long distances in only several months with the slow and steady gain of his popularity.


3. The Rocket Summer
Favorite Song: Brat Pack
Favorite Album: Do You Feel

Source of Discovery: Saw most recent album on the homepage of iTunes
After discovering this prized treasure of sounds in the cluttered mess of music on iTunes, I felt like I had hit a jackpot. Bryce Avary, the singer for The Rocket Summer adds a sort of jazz to his music with the smooth fluctuation of his high-range of pitch and usage of his smooth voice. The melody of each of these perfectly rendered songs overflows with soul and flair and made me beg for more. It was interesting hearing how the sounds of his albums changed over the years as he matured. Bryce Avary definitely deserves the success for his creation of such great music.


2. Arcade Fire
Favorite Song: Wake Up
Favorite Album: Neon Bible

Source of Discovery: Trailer for the movie, Where the Wild Things Are
The band has pretty dense and meaningful lyrics for many of their songs and the voice of Win Butler, the lead singer, suits it perfectly. I love how their albums are set to a variety of different themes and their respective songs reflect it. My personal favorite is the dark, depressing backdrop of the album Neon Bible because the emotions profoundly radiate from the overall sound; the realism of their music sends jitters through my body when I listen to it. I can definitely empathize with their most recent album, The Suburbs, since because of my location I can relate to several of the circumstances mentioned in the lyrics of certain songs.


1. The Shins/ Broken Bells
Favorite Song: Australia
Favorite Album: Wincing the Night Away
Source of Discovery: It was featured on the iTunes page for Arcade Fire’s Funeral
If there is any one artist who has one of the most exclusive styles of music, it is without a doubt The Shins. Their music sounds like a mash-up of Caribbean sounds, pirate shanties, and catchy beats. Whenever I turn on my iPod to listen, I’m lost in a sea of imagery. My all-time favorite album is Wincing the Night Away because of not only the awe-inspiring artwork, but because each song makes me feels as though I have transcended the distractions of my surroundings. The lyrics are surreal, just like the music. James Mercer’s voice blends well with this unique genre of music. He more recently began a project known as Broken Bells, which adds more of an electronic aspect to the music. All in all, I’ve been more than satisfied with Mercer’s music, and I can’t wait for the release of the next Shins album, which drops in 2011.

1 Pill A Day Keeps The Nausea Away

September 3rd, 2010
Dear multi-tasking Planet Earth,

Just the other night I had to write my thoughts on the subject of what I believe is the difference between being alive and living. I had instantly drawn my attention to the familiar answer that being alive is simply living at your fullest capacity. After thinking about that for a split second, how can we completely absorb our surroundings and take in the best that the world has to offer? I face this painstaking decision every day. Just little things. Do I go to art club or math team after school on a Thursday? Do I stay after to tutor in math in the TLC or go to the University of Illinois college representative meeting? Do I work more on my colored pencil drawing of a red panda I started over a year ago or read the rest of Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures? By pushing too many activities and plans in front of me, just about nothing gets completed. Sadly, the stress of deciding turns me away from all of those things (and many more in the past) and it is very tempting sometimes to recede back into that immobile state of being at home. I usually look to my laptop as an escape from the plethora of decisions, yet they still haunt me. Do I watch that Youtube video that I was recommended or search for interesting, new music on iTunes? With billions of possible websites to visit, it is close to impossible to experience everything you plan to read or watch online. You become caught up in other peoples’ works and less with your own, which is kind of why internet writing is difficult for me. The truth of the matter is: you guide your life. On that sailboat to your ancient kingdom of gold, you are the captain. Side-tracking happens along the way, but you still eventually head toward that goal by persevering through the rough waves. If not, you are stuck nauseous in the turbulence of the sea. I guess I am trying to say that to fully absorb the wonders of the world, you need to take life one step at a time, which makes sense, right? If you watch television and eat ice cream at the same time, you don’t pay attention that much on whatever program is currently airing, nor do you enjoy the sweet, creamy flavors of the ice cream that you are eating. Life just passes by and your senses continue to ignore it.


Birds


(May 28th, 2010)
Dear shut-in planet Earth,

God, how much does it take for us to be loved?
For us to be saved?
We all are birds stuck inside our cage, covered up with praise.
And behind our saints we hide our face.
Oh, the numbers come. Yeah, they’re dialing in.
We can’t help but to compare ourselves again.
~Birds by Deas Vail~

I couldn’t take it anymore: McMurphy and Nurse Ratched fighting off against each other for months on end on the tiniest rules of the mental institution. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is jammed with tension between the “birds”: the mental patients; and the “cage”: the doctors and nurses on the ward. McMurphy, a gambler and rebel, purposely works his way into this cruel world cut off from the outside world, imagining his time to be a breeze, and he immediately realizes that it isn’t the relaxing atmosphere he has hoped for. Instead, the powerful nurse in charge, Ms. Ratched,  seeks control and inflicts pain on the patients with a range of mental troubles. Sadly, her methods have caused a cruel opposite effect: they’ve made just-about-normal patients doomed to be in the hospital for life by giving them permanent disabilities. Unfortunately, the outside world doesn’t seem to notice, since Ratched sucks up to the press and builds a delightful image to show how much progress the institution has made.  McMurphy is very perseverant in his quest to dismantle the structured system that Ratched has created. He continues on with his dastardly stunts even after receiving repetitive electric shock treatments to his brain. He becomes a figure similar to Jesus, gaining followers and later receiving beating after beating on the cross-shaped table wearing his own “crown of thorns”.  The  slow downfall of the caste system around him truly captivates the reader and brings about strong hatred towards Ratched. McMurphy succeeds in appealing to the rest of the patients around him. Going against the strict policies, the patients go on fishing trips outside of the grounds and secretly have parties with prostitutes during the night and get drunk on a mixture of alcohol and cough syrup.  McMurphy becomes closer to Bromden, a silent, inactive patient who  eventually comes out of his shell after he shows him that there is more to the world than the dull confines of the institution. This book profoundly questions the definition of insanity, showing that these people are just the same as everyone else and possibly just have been given up at a young age for various reasons. The  surprise ending makes the reader thankful for having so much freedom and opportunity in the world.

Michael

Reading

(March 23rd, 2010) Dear Planet Earth,

Wild, exotic, adventurous, and vastly descriptive. I’ve caught myself in a pretty captivating adventure book called The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear. It had stood out to me greatly at Borders and I wanted to give an adventure story a shot, since this genre is completely unfamiliar with me. The book reminded me of all of the picture books I’ve read when I was little — expanded to appeal to the adult audience. The story follows a blue bear that is trying to find a place to fit in with society. The book starts out with Blue bear on a boat in the middle of the ocean and continues with a variety of random events and adventures. Any person can connect Blue bear’s development to the development of their own childhood, because just like a human, Blue bear eventually is taught how to speak by talking waves in the ocean, learns early life lessons from a mysterious island that lures him in with desire, and is shown the world on the back of a flying dinosaur. He has formed a couple strong bonds of friendship with many of the characters he has encountered, while in the meantime has been strongly betrayed. Blue bear consistently is cast away from the communities that he grows to be apart of, and so it is a little saddening. At the same time, I find it to be probably one of the most descriptive novels I have ever encountered, since it spends such a large number of pages just to describe the physical characteristics of the ever changing landscape or the many species of creative characters that the author, Walter Moers, has formed. Blue bear’s journey is throughout the land known as Zamonia, which was supposedly a continent formed millions of years ago and had been in the middle of the Atlantic. I would recommend this read to anyone with lots of time on their hands and open to a captivating journey of adventure.


Those Little Things

(January 15th, 2010)

Dear Planet Earth,

January has to be the most depressing month of the year: there is no doubt about it. Aside from New Years being on the first, there are plenty of other downsides associated with this month. Stemming off of New Years is the idea that we all have resolutions to prove in 2010 such as trying harder at work/school or losing a certain number of pounds. It’s frustrating having to carry out such demanding resolutions. Of course, I may just be making a big deal about it but I think it is the very minor things about life that tick us off the most. I know I have to deal with them right now while I am writing this. In the corner of the room I can hear the faintest ringing noise while I am typing this, yet it seems to be so loud when I put my attention on it. Little things like that make us irritated. Thus, resolutions are pain-bearers.

Aside from our goals: the weather outside is just so frightful. Even though we can avoid it by staying indoors as much as possible, it is the absence of natural light that makes everything seem so depressing. I’ve been affected by it greatly, since I have to live in a house with very few light fixtures to make the room bright and cheery. Like I mentioned before, just a little alteration in the atmosphere can make the grandest difference in our attitude and emotions.

Probably one of the largest factors adding to our pain and misery is the cold and weather outdoors. Of course, people do travel, so this is very difficult to avoid. I know I dread having to get in the car in the morning after just waking up because the garage is so disturbingly chilly that my skin cries out in pain when I try to make any movement. Luckily I can deal with the pain a lot better when I am fully awake, but the feeling of cold still has a terrible effect on the way I feel. In the winter my hands start to get dry from the lack of moisture in the air. At any point in my day the skin on my knuckles just cracks and bleeds. It is heartbreaking it have it continuously happen each and every day. I have to spend extra time just to make sure I put on enough creme in the morning or at night to deal with the pain.

January is a month full of other causes of stress and depression. It is currently the week before finals at my school, and so I’ve had to work extra hours every night just to finish projects and papers, and study for tests. So far I’ve had some form of testing every single day this week and I am sick of all of this misery, especially right after returning from Winter Break: completely relaxed. Maybe this extra-long break is the reason why I am doing so much poorly. It has lowered my toleration for schoolwork so that I was unprepared coming back from break. Adults are most likely going through similar struggles with their work as well. I know in January all of the bills from the holiday celebrations come in and have to be paid. I guess it is just misery for everyone!

Breakfast Delight!


Happy Thanksgiving to all! I’ve been dieing to write about a recipe that I’ve made in the past several times that I have completely made and perfected. As you might not know, I adore cooking, and it is something that I continue to do in my free time. I help out at the cooking club at my school and we play with tons of recipes. In short, I just want to put a little more of myself into this website, since I have been working on it for over two years. The recipe I want to share with you today is one that I’ve created myself based on my love for the very first meal of the day, Breakfast, of course! Whenever I eat out at pancake houses or other joints serving breakfast foods, I am usually torn apart on what to order, because of the number of options available. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve discovered the legendary “Breakfast Sandwich” which combines several continental breakfast based foods into one delicious, not-quite-so-nutritious sandwich. This mighty burger is packed with various flavors that I have come to know and love. After enjoying myself a couple of times, I came up with the idea of creating my own recipe to make at home, with all of the flavors I adore. After several attempts, I finally perfected a delicious sandwich, which I am dieing to share with the world. Above is a picture of my culinary masterpiece. Isn’t it just beautiful? I decided to make them in the style of a slider, or a mini-burger. Two should be enough to quench any size of hunger in the morning. I’ve come up with a list of steps to follow in order to make your own in the kitchen!

First of all, there are a couple of ingredient that need to be acquired before setting off to cook:
2 plain mini bagels (whole wheat bagels could work as well.)
2 sausage patties (feel free to substitute it with bacon.)
2 slices of American Cheese
1 medium-sized potato (Idaho potatoes work the best for this.)
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. of vegetable oil (olive oil works too)
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of pepper

1/4 tsp. of minced onion (onion powder works as well.)

Along with that there are a couple of other things that should be on hand:
Medium-sized frying pan
Small frying pan
Cheese grater
Cutting board
Apple peeler
Spatula
Paper towels (in the case of any spillage)

1. Form the sausage patties to be about 1/4 inch in thickness and place in the medium-sized frying pan. Turn heat on to the lowest setting and let the meat cook until it turns brown on both sides. This will take quite a while to cook, so set it aside.
2. Meanwhile, peel of skin of the potato and grate it over a cutting board. Use a paper towel or a strainer to get rid of all of the liquid from the potato. Add in minced onions.
3. Heat up 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil in the small pan on Med-High- High setting and add in the potato and onion. Flatten out using a spatula into the pan until a thin pancake shape is formed. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper on one side. Flip once the opposite side is of a golden color. Once cooked fully, remove from pan.
4. Crack eggs into the same pan (it should already be greasy from the vegetable oil still) and scramble on Med heat (frying them would work too).
5. Set bagels with open ends up on a plate (toasting them would be beneficial to do beforehand). Assemble in any order, as long as the cheese is not on the bottom, since it will seep through the hole in the bagel.
6. Enjoy your precious creation!

This really is a simple recipe that doesn’t require the purchase of that many extra ingredients, but it sure is a tasty addition to any morning. Enjoy! 🙂