The Hunger to Consume

I have found that throughout my life I am always consuming something. That, in itself, sounds horribly awkward, so let me explain to you exactly what I mean.

I don’t mean this:

man eats evidence while getting arrested

I don’t entirely mean this either, but I could because of how much I love sleep:

What I mean is I am always consuming some sort of media or knowledge. As humans, this is something that we naturally do. We are curious creatures, born to travel the Earth and past it to discover how everything works together, how the Universe itself can exist and function, and how we can function within it. It’s marvelous to think about really, knowing how small we are in a space so utterly gigantic. To me, it’s a wonder we’re not completely lost. But I digress.

Largest NASA Hubble Space Telescope image constructed

Largest NASA Hubble Space Telescope image constructed. Image of our neighbor, Andromeda galaxy.

Why exactly is it that we enjoy binge-watching TV shows, for example? What propels us to push forward to that next episode even when it’s six in the morning–apparently I stay up late very often–and we can hear the birds start to chirp and see the sun come up? (That’s when you know you done messed up, by the way. To those who are tragically unaware of the reference, watch this short Key & Peele skit.)

Well, if it is interesting to say the least, we want to know more. We want to discover where the plot leads, what other complications occur and how those characters will proceed to resolve their issues. Could it also be because we recognize ourselves in those characters and the situations they face? Could it be that the way they solve their problems are similar to the way we solve our similar problems? This may be why we’re frustrated with a show when characters make the same mistakes we may have made, and why we’re cheering them on and rejoicing when they’re on the right path. Sometimes, we watch how it all plays out because we don’t know how to resolve the situation, and we watch for an insight or advice.

See, I recently started watching The Walking Dead (as I referenced in my last post). I found that the reason I fell so in love with that show–besides the fact that I would never know which character was going to die next–was the characters’ interactions and how they dealt with their surroundings. The characters would often have to make very difficult decisions just to survive. (If you haven’t watched The Walking Dead and don’t want any spoilers, I would skip the next paragraph. Otherwise, keep reading).

SPOILER ALERT: One of the most painful decisions is when Rick, the group’s leader, has to choose between the safety of his best friend and the safety of the group. Rick has to make a calm and controlled decision, which is understandably difficult to do when zombies, or the walking dead, could come in herds and eat you till there’s not a trace left at any time. He understands that he cannot put the safety of one person against the safety of an entire group, especially when his best friend is the one causing difficulties that are impeding their survival. He, with regret but also without, chooses the group. He has to deal with the emotional aftermath for the rest of the season, and it almost hurts to watch. It’s almost horrible to think about, a betrayal of ethics and morality of sorts, to put myself into his shoes and realize what I would do in his situation. But I wanted to watch him make the decision (and I simultaneously wished he didn’t have to) but I wanted to know how he would handle the situation, in case, as crazy as it sounds, I would ever have to make such a decision myself. I needed to know how he would handle the aftermath of utter devastation, because although the decision would be very difficult, I believe the aftermath would be worse. Now he has to live with what he has done. SPOILER END

In case you didn’t read the spoiler, here’s a theoretical example: If I had to save one of two of my loved ones, I would not know what to do. How in the world could I possibly make a choice such as that one? To even ponder the idea may be a betrayal in itself. There’s the practical side and the emotional side that would come together to help me make that decision, but if they war, they leave me despairingly confused. If I followed my practical side, I would have to suffer from the emotional effects of such a decision in the aftermath. If I chose the emotional one, I may have to suffer through worse consequences.

We watch these TV shows to see and comprehend how it all plays out, whether to learn how to resolve the situation or to watch the characters make their own choices. We can look at these choices and decide for ourselves if these are decisions we want to make in our lives. I mean, that is the function of TV shows. It is to reach out to audiences and relate to them, and what better way to relate to them than offer imaginative scenarios that they could see themselves in?

“Hunger to consume” is just a fancy way to say that I have a voracious appetite to learn, which if you are in the SAS Honors Program, is something you likely have. An extension would be to say that I have a desire to apply this knowledge, as well. Plus, there is likely a part of us that enjoys unbalance and disarray, because routine can often get boring. I know I do at times. So, if you need a show to watch that’ll test your heartstrings, The Walking Dead is the way to go. And I also encourage you all to learn, learn something you enjoy. What do you really have to lose (other than time, really, which can honestly be justified by gain of skill)? And next time you’re going to watch a TV show, you could probably just use this as an excuse.

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It must be true, I said it on the internet

Two weeks in and I feel like I tripped and fell into the middle of the semester… anyway, good to be back!

Lots of things I want/need to get done this semester, starting with this: self-teaching Arabic.

If I say something publicly on the internet, I have to do it, right? That’s how that works? I hope so, because I’m saying this as much for myself as I am to let you know. I’ve been trying without luck since freshman year to self-teach Arabic, but a number of things (primarily laziness) have stopped me. Not any more, though. Now that it’s up here, I have to.

As you might have gathered, I love languages. I don’t know where my life is headed, but I know I want to spend time working or studying overseas after Rutgers.

I speak German (well) and Chinese (passably).  Languages are cool to me if they’re from different families, they’re beautiful in their own way (most people will disagree but I think German is one of the most beautiful-sounding languages), and languages that will let me to travel to cool parts of the world and talk to the people who live there. Thankfully, German, Chinese, and Arabic meet all three.

And I’m always looking for opportunities to practice! My friends started an awesome club this year called Rutgers Lingua to let speakers of different languages get together to practice. Meetings for the spring semester aren’t set in stone, but it’s generally once a week (Saturdays?) on College Ave. We send out a Facebook poll beforehand to get an idea of who wants to speak which languages. There are usually English, Spanish, French, German, and Chinese groups, but we’ll have any language if we can get two people who speak it.

A typically beautiful view of the German countryside from the Eagle's Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) in the Alps, right before the fog and freezing rain rolled through.

A typically beautiful view of the German countryside from the Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) in the Alps, right before the fog and freezing rain rolled through.

Last summer I went to China (with Professor Simmons through Rutgers Study Abroad) and Germany and Austria (with my brother for a few weeks after he graduated from college). All three countries were beautiful in their own ways. Touring through a country can’t compare to studying/living/working there, just as speaking the natives’ language opens doors that most tourists don’t even know exist.

Which is why this summer, I want to live and work abroad, not just study.

So for the past few weeks I’ve been combing through listings on CareerKnight and the websites of random companies to find work in Germany and China (and maybe Austria, though Austrian German is a little harder to understand than Germany’s Hochdeutsch/Plattdeutsch).

Buildings on the Spree in Berlin, where hopefully I will be this summer!

Buildings on the Spree in Berlin, where hopefully I will be this summer!

Hopefully I can live abroad a bit during summer break and practice my languages while getting some experience abroad. But who knows? I don’t know if I’ll enjoy it until I’m there, so this is also a test. Maybe I won’t like it, and I’ll come back with a new direction?

Quick Fame at the Quick Lane Bowl

The notification arose in the top right corner of my laptop screen, a welcome distraction amidst a finals week study break. “FREE Quick Lane Bowl Tickets for Undergrad Students!” I looked up at my two teammates, studying along with myself in the student lounge of the Communication department building.
“Did you see that email?” I inquired aloud.
“Let’s do it” they responded, unequivocally.
Just like that, the plan had been set into motion. Within minutes, my Internet browser was filled with a half-dozen tabs, featuring Google Maps directions from New Jersey to Ford Field, Detroit, where the game was to be played, as well as hotel rates around the stadium.
fb-15-bowl-central-headerThe game was scheduled for December 26, at 4:30 pm, against the University of North Carolina. After surviving finals week, we put the finishing touches on the logistics for the trip. My parents, graciously allowed us to take the trek in our family SUV, which could accommodate six willing travelers. Ultimately, myself and three teammates, as well as my teammates roommate and my own classmate, committed to the excursion.
With a mid-afternoon kickoff on the day after Christmas, and an undergraduates budget that only allowed for one night’s hotel stay, we were let with two options- depart early on gameday, or drive through the night before. We decided upon the latter, assembling most of the caravan in South Jersey before grabbing our last traveler from Mountain Lakes. At just after 1 am, we began the 600-mile journey onto Interstate 80 west.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 11.19.36 AM
I drove the first leg of the journey, finally acquiescing to my gas gauge’s demand just as the sun was breaking through the morning sky. After refueling with some Christmas dinner leftovers, we resumed our drive. I graciously eschewed driving duties, and managed to catch my first few hours of shut-eye with my teammate at the helm. We arrived to the city just before 11 am, almost 10 hours since we departed, welcomed by an unseasonably warm 50 degree day. After gorging ourselves on some much needed breakfast fare courtesy of Cadillac Diner, we managed to secure an early hotel check-in, before making some pregame preparations.
Having made the half-day drive across the country, we decided that we ought to display our support of the Scarlet Knights in true collegiate fashion-by painting R-U-T-G-E-R-S across our respective chests. Realizing we were one body-canvas short, we resorted to some ingenuity, utilizing a cardboard box for the final letter, and headed for the stadium.QLB_Field_Backdrop
Despite an underwhelming crowd split evenly between Rutgers supporters, UNC fans, and local college football enthusiasts, we made sure our fandom was on full display. Throughout the first half, surrounding fans complimented our display of support, with a half dozen or so requesting to join us for a picture. Rutgers dominating performance made it easy to maintain our high spirits, as the Scarlet Knights secured a 16-0 halftime lead.

Field_Corner
Midway through the third quarter, our body-painting efforts were recognized by the broadcast production from ESPN, as they granted us three seconds of airtime on the nationally televised broadcast. Within minutes my phone was in a frenzy, as friends and family from home, watching the game, congratulated us on our brief moment of glory. The Scarlet Knights gave us more to cheer about, as they finished the game with a 40-21 victory.

QLB_ESPN
After grabbing some dinner, we returned to the hotel, exhausted from the day’s journey. A few members of our party managed to summon the strength to venture into the Detroit nightlife, but my body refused to rise from the hotel bed until the sun rose the next morning.
We returned home that night, some 1200 miles later, having spent almost 20 hours in the confines of the car. The trip was a tremendous experience with my teammates, and a memorable part of winter break that will set the precedent for years to come.

Quick Lane Bowl

Time Management and Procrastination

Most of us have fallen victim to procrastination at at least one point in our lives. (Come on now, don’t deny it. You know you’ve procrastinated). I feel it goes a little something like this:

Me: I have an essay due in a few days! I haven’t started so I should probably start.

Me: I hear you, I hear you. But wait, just hear me out. I have a good idea. Why not watch an episode of The Walking Dead on Netflix? You need to relax a bit so you can think better!

Me: …Yeah you’re right. That’s a great idea!

And all the while, you feel like this: Obligations creeping up on you as you procrastinate

Now it’s the night before the essay is due and you somehow managed to marathon an entire season’s worth of episodes in those few days, along with attending your classes and getting minimal work done for them. You begin your paper:

The

After the sun has risen, signifying the imminent end of your all-nighter—and you miss the sunrise because you’re too busy writing your paper—you finally think, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep finishing all my assignments the night before.”

And lo, it begins: the path to better time management. However, that’s usually where it ends too, because we tell ourselves we must stop doing certain things, i.e. stop attempting to watch a season of a show in an hour, but often have no idea how to carry out the rules we’ve set for ourselves. I had a problem similar to this last semester. I was juggling difficult classes with extracurricular activities, and was in dire need of a stricter schedule. After a considerable amount of research, I devised a solution for myself. I present to you:

The Most Inflexible Schedule Ever

Screenshot 2015-01-19 21.18.19

Although it looks daunting and unaccommodating now, I believed this schedule would help me organize my time better. It didn’t entirely. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Here’s what I did: I blocked out my time, using Microsoft Excel. What that means is I set aside a specific amount of hours for a specific homework assignment or class. I had a “Time” column and a “Days” row, and my time interval was every hour. I put in my class times next, and then worked around those times, inputting blocks for homework assignments or readings for classes. My schedule usually started at 9:00 AM instead of earlier because I’m a night owl and prefer to stay up and work later at night. I was so strict with myself that I had even put in shower and sleep times. (It shows you just how fed up I was of not being efficient enough). I also put in consistent meeting times.

To make the schedule easier to read, I colored the class blocks a darkish blue and colored the consistent daily activities of showering and getting ready in the morning a light blue. I also capitalized showering, sleeping, and getting ready, because for me, they made the schedule easier to read. The outlined blocks were office hours.

Of course, this is an extreme version of time management with almost no flexibility, specifically composed by someone who was frustrated with a lack of efficiency. I’d say I followed about 50% of the schedule, and that may be a gracious overstatement. I had other meetings I was unable to put in, due to the fact that they were never consistent, and the lack of flexibility in the schedule meant I lost time for work for some of my classes because of them. I also had spaces between class with nothing to do, which I attempted to solve by getting work done but most often found myself on my phone. With this experience, I finally understood that a healthy schedule included some routine and some time set out for homework.

I suggest this, that it may be easier to input class times and some homework assignments, leaving the rest of the schedule up in the air for flexibility. However, too much flexibility can also be disadvantageous. The struggle is in finding a balance. After all, that is the struggle of life itself: balancing yourself and your needs with your surrounding and its needs. But that’s an entirely different topic, for perhaps another day.