Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No Beard New Years

Beards and moustaches, they're everywhere. They're in the NHL Playoffs, they're in November, they're in December, they're in the wild. You really just can't get away from them. It's gotten to a point where most of the year seems to be centred around growing a beard and/or moustache.

It's time for a break. It's time to face the facts. Some people just don't look good in facial hair. Some people can't grow a beard. Sometimes you need to shave.

This month why not participate in "No Beard New Years". It is an opportunity to give everyone a break from our facial hair. It is a chance to use those fancy shavers we've been given for Christmas. It is a time to celebrate the time honoured tradition of waking up ridiculously early to spend ten minutes shaving.

Anyone can join in. All you have to do is keep your face free of facial hair for the entire month of January. This year think about starting things off with a clean shave.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve (Apologies for the Melodrama)

This is probably going to sound depressing, which is more a comment on what we think about holidays than on the state of my life, but I'm spending my first Christmas eve alone. I work tomorrow at 6 AM. I get paid more so that's nice, but I wish that I had someone other than The Roots in the house this evening.

I was thinking about "A Christmas Carol" on the way home this evening. Scrooge goes to bed hating Christmas, and when he wakes up in the morning he wants nothing more than to be with other people and share joy. I wish people had dreams like that more often. The world would be a better place.

People don't change as quickly as we'd like. When you get into the nitty gritty, a lot of the teachings of Christ have to do with the fact that people aren't perfect and we need to figure out how to deal with it. I fantasize about people having textbook climaxes and turnarounds all the time, but I've almost never seen it happen. If you know of someone who's done that, let me know. I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Questions

I'm reading Blue Like Jazz again. Amanda found a copy in her apartment and realized it actually belonged to Brendan (a former housemate). It sat on my desk for about two weeks before it's gaze attracted my hand when I was hunting for some bathroom reading material. I flipped it to a chapter called "Grace" and read through it. As I read, I found that Brendan had highlighted some things and written some notes. Reading this chapter was kind of like doing a book study with Brendan, except that he wasn't in my bathroom. I got to learn a few things from him. It was great.

Yesterday I was reading another chapter called "Love" (I know, they're pretty ambiguous titles like some of my posts. Maybe that's where I get it from). Don (the author of the book) starts talking about leaving the church world and hanging out with hippies, and how he feels about all of this. One of the things he says specifically is this.

"My Christian communities had always had unwritten social ethics like don't cuss and don't support Democrats and don't ask tough questions about the Bible"-p.210

I was cleaning and doing some painting today so I had loads of time to think. A comment from a coworker had reminded me about my ongoing struggle with reconciling what I learned in school with what I have learned from personal experience (science and God). I find that talking with people in The Church about it really doesn't help me to feel any better. I usually get some mixture of "aren't those evolutionary scientists just part of some conspiracy to oppress Christianity?" and "just pray and everything will be fine".

I really wish we could take people's questions more seriously in the church. If I'm interested in pursuing pastoral ministry, I don't want to just dismiss peoples struggles of faith. I'd rather allow people to struggle with these issues than simply shove them aside.

I read this quote recently. It rang extremely loudly for me.


"I think the reason some people get so upset when you question their beliefs is that you're giving a voice to their own doubts, which they try so hard to keep silent." Eric "Bubba" Alder

 More people are wrestling with big questions than we realize, and these questions become such a big taboo because everyone is scared shitless of getting the answers wrong.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Can Write Songs...

I went to a concert last night with Amanda. We saw Bon Iver at Massey Hall. It's really hard for me to be objective about concerts because the only reason I go to a concert is because I have strong emotional ties to the artist. The only piece of criticism I could offer about the night was that if you like Bon Iver then you should go see him live. He is definitely part of the group of musicians who sound better live. Massey Hall also did him tons of favours. What an awesome venue.

I've managed to be moderately successful at writing more. I wrote a song last week. It's not very good but on my next day off (Sunday) I will record it and the other one that I wrote and post them to bandcamp.

Also I'm pretty sure I'm going to drop the lame solo project name and just use my name to write music under. I'm finding that the writing process is so individual that the value of a solo project name is quite limited. I write the songs without much assistance so we might as well just be clear about who's making the music. I'll work on that whole bandcamp thing for that.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stupid Comma Key...

I keep thinking that I want to post stuff but I never do. The reasons for this are twofold

1) I feel pretty useless right now and am getting the feeling that I'm not really doing anything.
2) The comma key isn't working on my macbook and that makes me super pissed of and self conscious.

I know the comma thing is dumb but it's actually driving me insane. Sometimes I borrow my dad's keyboard but for the most part I just refrain from posting or writing emails (it is killing me that I can't put commas in here....). I had some thoughts today though. Let me share them with you.

I was cleaning which is a lot like field work because I listen to music and perform menial tasks for long periods of time. I actually enjoy it because I'm good at it and I feel efficient AND it gives me a ton of time to think. Today I was thinking about how I haven't really made or posted any music since...10 months ago or something like that (by the way I will post the song I wrote the other day). I was trying to figure out a way to fix that problem. I want to make music and I have things that I want to say but I'm never sure how to get it all out in one session. I usually walk away with some kind of half finished idea for one part of a song because I get frustrated.

I'm thinking about trying some kind of song-a-week challenge. I'm not going to commit to anything right now (because that would inevitably lead to disappointment) but I'm going to see how things go if I actually focus on the output rather than focusing on the process. It could either go really well or really poorly.

This happens with everything I do. I could do something really amazing...or I could go home and play video games for several hours. Usually the latter occurs but I can always hope for the former. Psychology would tell me that my personality type explains this but that doesn't make it any easier.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"I Can Ride My Bike With No Handlebars..."

I wrote a song the other day. It was really easy. I did it exactly the way I had rehearsed songwriting in my head so many times. It took a total of 30 minutes. When I finished, I wondered why it took me so long to get to the point of sitting down and writing. I blame video games.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The First Day of The Rest of Your Life

Isn't every day the first day of the rest of your life? I wish I lived in a time when that statement wasn't completely cliche. It would make me feel less cynical.

Anyways, I graduate from university tomorrow. Yippee. As I've told probably fifty people by now "I dun gragiated mysef".

I am glad to be moving on from Queen's. Though there have been good things about my time here, I don't have a lot of positive feelings about the campus or any of my class experiences. I grew up, but it was hard and I'm ready to move on.

I'm not sure what's next for me. If I'm anything like most people in Ontario then I'll end up in Toronto but we'll have to see about that.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I find it hard to convince myself that playing single player video games is a bad way to live my life. I know I'm accomplishing nothing, but I still do it.

I sat down and wrote some emails this evening. It's a much better way to spend an evening when you're worried about life plans.

These would make decent tweets...

Friday, October 28, 2011

It Was Supposed to be About The Music

I started this blog 4 years ago under the title "Stumbling Out of Starvation". At the time I was playing in a band, working part time as a dishwasher, preparing to audition for university, and was living at home. Now I'm not playing in a band, working full time at a summer camp, preparing for grad work in university, and.....living at home. The things that remain the same over four years are quite funny.

I seem to go at this music thing in fits and starts. I wish I was better able to get things off the ground. It seems the desire to relax and recreate overrides the desire to make music. I guess I'll try again now and see where things go.

I did a bit of clean-up on my band camp page. It doesn't have any new content yet, but maybe I can change that if I work at it. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Thought About Waking Up Obsessed

I seem to be experiencing some serious mental haywire. These days I keep waking up at 3 AM with a brain that's stuck thinking about some random topic. Last night it was climbing. Tonight I have a distinct feeling it will be this song. I don't really know what all this means (actually, I'm pretty sure it means nothing) but it would be nice to be stuck on a more useful topic like resource inequity, or the Riemann hypothesis. I wish there was a way to force myself to think about specific topics in my subconscious.

Some Thoughts on The Book of Jonah (Part 3)

We're getting some serious mileage out of this one conversation. Here we are at thought number three.

So we already talked about Jonah being dead, and how this fact generates a much stronger image when Jesus talks about the sign the "evil and adulterous generation" will be given.

There is a way that I have heard others teach about the Christian walk. It goes something like this. One begins in a state of rebellion or ignorance of God (step 1). Eventually, God catches up with them and through this experience they undergo a sort of death to their old way of life(step 2). After this "death" they begin a new life where they walk with God, listening to his instructions(step 3). The journey doesn't always go so smoothly though. There are problems along the way and often we find ourselves grumbling and complaining at God for the way he's chosen to do things(step 4).

If you look at Jonah, it fits this model almost exactly. Jonah begins by rebelling against God and running in the opposite direction of where he's told to go (step 1). Then God catches up with him using a storm, he gets thrown over the side of a boat, and he dies (step 2). After being resurrected, he goes to Nineveh and prophesies to the people there (step 3), but not without a last confrontation to end the book (step 4).

You would think that God knew what was going to happen when he assembled the story of human history.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Book Of Jonah (Part 2)

So where were we? Oh yeah, I had just finished telling you about Jonah dying.

Jonah dying puts a new spin on this whole story. Man tries to run from God, but God catches up with him and he gets thrown overboard. Then he dies, before being resurrected so he can go and prophesy to the people of Nineveh. Not exactly something you'd hear in Sunday School class. It gives the story a bit of a different take than what I was taught when I was a kid.

This makes another part of the bible make a whole lot more sense though. This part is in Matthew and in Luke

But he answered them, “An evil andadulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:39-40 ESV)

I have always been confused about this passage. What is the sign of Jonah? Is it just the three days? That makes sense but I've never really felt satisfied by this response. If it's just three days, why not use another occurrence of three days. Why not talk about the three days of darkness in Egypt during the Exodus or some other  Old Testament of three days? I am sure that Jesus chose his words carefully and if he was speaking about the sign of Jonah, he probably meant more than might be immediately apparent.

So what if the sign of Jonah is a prophet who died and then is brought back to life after three days to call people into repentance. Then Jonah dies, and is dead for three days before being brought back to life. What an incredible miracle! In the same way, what an incredible sign that Jesus should die and after three days, come back to life. That would be truly be a sign worthy of the son of God.

But wait, there's more! And I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Book of Jonah (Part 1)

Foreword: I'm looking at going to seminary next year. As a result of this I'm trying to practice writing about scripture. This is a first attempt.

"Jonah died"

My coworker said this to me yesterday over lunch. A church group was in retreating and had left their instructional material on the table. They had been studying Jonah and the printout was sitting on the table. Even if you haven't had much bible teaching, you've probably heard of the story of Jonah. It is a popular story for Sunday school classes everywhere.

Jonah is told to go warn the people of Nineveh (the Assyrian capital) that they need to repent or they're going to die. Jonah gets up and sails in the opposite direction. Storm comes up and his ship-mates throw him overboard because he's responsible for the storm. Jonah is eaten by a fish, then spat up on a piece of land where he gets up and finally goes to Nineveh and warns them about the coming judgement. To Jonah's surprise, they repent. This makes him very bitter and angry and him and God have an interesting confrontation at the end of the book that ends with God saying "who are you to tell me how to act?".

The commonly held view among most people I know is that Jonah was swallowed by the fish, he prayed in the belly of the fish for three days, and then he goes on his merry way. That's not what it says in the book though. It says...

The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. (Jonah 2:5-6 ESV)

There's two times where Jonah talks about going down to the deep or the pit. You can interpret it figuratively if you want, but if you look at the Hebrew, both words are used to describe hell or death. So when my co-worker said

"Jonah died"

...he was being quite serious.



More thoughts to come.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Concerned Citizen

I work with a lot of Jr. High aged kids these days. Sometimes I wonder where they're getting their ideas about life from.

I'd really like to write about more specifics but my time in the PC bubble at Queen's makes me hesitant to cite any specific examples. All I will say is that I don't know what's going on with our kids.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Email

(apologies for the punctuation)

Sometimes I send people emails.

When you send an email you are usually begging for a response.

I send someone an email and then I wait for them to respond.

Early on it is an active waiting. I hope for an email each time I open my inbox.

Later this active waiting turns into passive waiting. I think about how I sent an email to someone some time ago and they have not responded.

After a while it turns to questions. How come they haven't responded? Are they mad at me?

Eventually I just forget I ever sent the first email.

Then the cycle repeats.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bleah

As I skim down the page at my ever slimming entries, I immediately get worried. I feel like I'm slipping. Life is so normal these days when compared to my time in California that I feel like I'm not learning anything about life.

I don't think this is true. I still feel like I'm learning stuff but it seems that the things I'm learning and the realizations I come to are less dramatic than the ones in California.

My thoughts are actually a lot like this video these days. Enjoy. (p.s. this video has a bunch of f-bombs. Consider yourself warned)


Friday, September 16, 2011

Not Real

My oldest sister just left on a pretty amazing trip around the world. I spent some time in Detroit visiting both her and my second-oldest sister in the week before we left. It gave time for a lot of really neat conversations about the trip she was going on and how she felt about the whole thing. We had one conversation that I connected with and I wonder if other people thing the same thing sometimes.

She was talking about how she was leaving soon, but it didn't really feel real. To her, the prospect of being away didn't really seem like it was imminent even though she had plane tickets and they had sold their house and all that stuff. There was this lingering sense that it could all just be made up. I told her that I had a similar experience in the run-up to California.

I get this experience a lot. I remember that things in my life have happened, but it doesn't seem real at times. It's like they could have just been made up. I went to California but when I think about it now, it seems like it could have just been a dream that I had. I used to be in school, but when I think about being in high school it seems like a distant whisper and I have to go back to pictures or writings to remember that it was a real thing. I seem to cling to these memories at times, afraid that they'll just slip away.

Sometimes I think it might just be a byproduct of the fact that my life is pretty mundane at times. The moments that stand out from the norm seem fresh and crisp, while the daily grind just fades into the background. Perhaps this is an indication that I need to take more risks in life so that things stick out more.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

LAN Praty!

I spent Tuesday night after work playing Starcraft 2 with some friends. In the old days we would have called that a LAN party, except that you have to be online to play Starcraft 2 so it wasn't really a LAN party. We weren't keeping track though.

I spent a lot of the evening giggling uncontrollably. Things that really aren't that funny always make me laugh like an idiot at a LAN party. I actually probably look like a huge dork at a LAN party...[insert moment of self reflection]

Anyways it reminded me a lot of high school and the LAN parties I used to have with a couple friends. They were always small but fun. We'd goof off playing whatever games, talking, drinking Mountain Dew, and eating pizza. I lost touch with a lot of the friends I used to LAN party with, but I still remember the times very fondly. I think high school would have been much more lonely with no LAN parties.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Doing Nothing

Do you ever struggle to accomplish things you set out to do? We set out to do all this stuff, and some people manage to do it (for reasons often beyond their control), and some people don't. I usually fall into the latter category. Where do you fall?

It's kind of unfortunate that we have this problem sometime. Can you imagine what would happen if we actually did all the stuff we set out to do? That would be pretty awesome.

I'm trying to follow through more on things by setting more realistic goals. For example, I've been learning about the 10000 hour principle lately and I decided I wanted to start working on 10000 hours at something other than watching TV. I'm starting with my saxophone since I've got a good head start on that...(somewhere around 800 hours) and working my way up from not practicing at all, to about 20 hours a week. We'll see how successful I am, but I am taking it in small bites at this stage.

I see people who want to become so much but procrastinate so easily. I am one of them.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A New Thing That Isn't Really New

Sometimes I come to realizations that are new to me, but DEFINITELY not totally novel. Some of the stuff I write about is old news. This is one of those things.

You see, I started work this week. This is the first long term full time job I've worked so that's interesting, but it's also the most regular schedule I've ever had. I get up at 7 AM every morning, grab coffee, and sit with my dad in the living room and read for a bit. Then I go to my room and perform a variety of tasks including managing my finances, playing computer games, writing emails, and practicing music. Then at 11:30 I put on my work hat (literally. Like there's a real hat I have to wear at work...) and drive to work. I work for 8-9 hours and then come home. When I arrive home I write more emails and spend some time talking on the phone with Amanda before going to bed and doing it all again the next day.

It's a revelation. Every day holds pretty much the same thing and so I get the sense that I'm really into some kind of grind. There are these things that I do every day and that I could potentially do every day for the rest of my life. Right now it's exciting, but I wonder if I will ever burn out on it.

So that's pretty much all of my life at the moment. I'm doing my best to find fulfillment in things outside of work and work is good, but I feel a bit like I'm always looking over my shoulder to see if the rest of my life is sneaking up on me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Get Your Head Right

Whoa! I log on to make a new post today and Google has changed the entire interface of my blogging software. It's very pretty but totally different than the old one. I'll have to adjust.

Anyways...enough about that. What did I come here to talk about? Oh yeah, how crazy life is these days. Maybe crazy is the wrong word. What I mean to say is that my entire life has changed from what I thought it was going to be this year to what it is now, and I'm quite happy about it.

I'm currently parked in front of my brand new computer (which is brand new in more than one way right now. I just got it four days ago and it's currently playing music by the band "Brand New") in the room I'll be occupying in my parents house preparing for a weekend at my grandparents cottage before I start work on Tuesday (hopefully...still no word on my schedule). Yet at the beginning of this month, I thought I would still be in school for another year working away at a program I was increasingly uneasy about. I think my life is pretty clear evidence that you're not really stuck doing anything if you're willing to be flexible.

Now I'm just trying to get my head into this new plan. It feels like the whole world turned upside down, but I'm slowly getting my bearings.

Friday, August 26, 2011

On Vacation

I've been lazy this week, so there's really no excuse for the complete lack of posts on here. I just finished two weeks at camp, and decided to follow that up with a week at my sister's place in Detroit. It turns out that this was a brilliant idea. Since arriving here, I've been resting from a crazy summer. There's not a whole lot to do here aside from reading, playing with the kids, eating....ok so there's lots to do here but the pace is considerably slower than my last three and a half months have been. I've been using the time to catch up on sleep, do some serious reading, and relaxing. It's been good.

I just finished reading this book by Donald Miller called "A Million Miles In A Thousand Years". It talks about what happens if we think of our lives as a story instead of a sequence of random events. It then goes on to describe the author's experience with this style of life. It was quite a wake up call. Sometimes my life has felt like a sequence of random events. Graduating early has pushed me away from that a little bit and reading this book has made me think more carefully about the things that I do.

I've had some good visits this month. Packing August full of people has forced me to engage with people and talk about things and the resulting conversations have been really good. A lot of topics I wrote about while I was in California have come up and I've gotten a bit of resolution on them. Mostly it's just nice to know that other people think about these things too.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Graduating

I think I've sent all the emails and made all the personal explanations, so I'd like to outline what is going on with my life this year for those of you who might be a little confused.

During the summer I did a lot of thinking about what I want to do with my degree, where I will go after undergrad, and what I'm interested in. As I discussed in an earlier post, I am moving away from things of science and have shifted my focus towards working with God and people. As I thought about the future, I found I was less and less excited about the prospect of another year of school.

While all of this was going on, the threat of a strike from our faculty union had me thinking about the possibility of graduating with a BSc GEN (instead of a BScH MAJ) which would not require any additional credits from school. I looked into some of the schools I was thinking of applying to after undergrad and found that they all only required three years of study to enter into their programs, meaning another year of school would not provide me with any extra benefit.

I talked with my parents about it and we discussed the financial impacts of graduating early. A year of work would allow me to build up savings for future schooling, and would allow them to save what money they would have spent on my fourth year and apply it to some form of future study. Economically graduating early made a lot of sense. A final discussion with my parents led to me making the decision to not return to school this year and instead spend the time working in Westport and living with my parents. This will give me some space to think about a number of things, build up some savings, and apply for school next year while not spending a large amount of time on a school year which would not provide me with much additional benefit.

I'm a little sad that I won't be returning for a fourth year. It was shaping up to be an interesting year, but I'm clearly being taken in a different direction now and I'm enjoying the ride. To those of you I've met in my time at Queen's, I hope to keep in touch. Thank you for your time and kindness in my tumultuous three years here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sick

My mom says I don't do sick well. I tend to whine and complain a lot. I think this is true in the winter. In the summer things seem to be different. I'm on the third summer where I've gotten sick while taking care of small children. It requires so much energy and yet for some reason I push through it. I'm not really sure what's going on there.

Now that I'm thinking about it I remember that I asked for days off during two of those summers. Things just got kind of crazy and I had to walk away for a day. This week I haven't had a day off yet but the week seems to be stretching out to be several miles long. I'm really not sure how to keep going. I may take some medicine but that doesn't really give me more energy, it just numbs the pain so that I can think clearly.

I'm in a position where there seems to be no one to replace me and I'm not sure what that means. I wish that I hadn't gotten sick in the first place. Things would be much easier now.

Being sick is no fun.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Chillins

I'm working as a cabin leader taking care of a group of 8-11 year olds right now. They're a rambunctious bunch. They don't listen to me, they hit each other, they run away, and generally cause a lot of mayhem.

Now my training would tell me not to have favourites, but every group of kids you get as a cabin leader has its good and bad apples. Some kids never listen to you, some latch on to you and hang on your every word. It's not often clear which are which until a few days in. It seems to be much easier to engage one on one with the kids who listen and are engaged than it is to engage with the kids who are disobedient and disinterested. There are two boys in the current group who are much more well behaved and much more interested in taking it all in than the other 6 boys are. These two boys are making all the difficulty and frustration with the other six boys well worth it. I would do it for all of them for the sake of the two.

Yesterday I was thinking about this and I found an interesting parallel. Sometimes people ask why God would bother going through so much trouble if some people would deliberately choose not to follow him. It seems kinds of strange. Why bother if a chunk of the human race is just going to spit in your face?

I was thinking about it from my perspective. If I were God and I knew that there was a group of people who would hang on to my every word, I would do everything I could to hold on to that group and make their lives good even if it meant putting up with a whole bunch of other crap from the rest of people.

I realize the scope of this idea is pretty limited, but there you go. That's my thought for the day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Balding

I'm going bald. This isn't really a big surprise to me, I've been making fun of my dad's lack of hair for years, but it's something that I've finally noticed happening to me. It's a surefire physical sign sign that I'm getting older.

In a way it looks oddly distinguished right now. I shaved my head before I left for the field and let my beard grow while I've been out here, so my beard and hair are about the same length. The slow recession of my hairline has been balanced by the increasing bushiness of my beard in a way that squares up my head. There's about as detailed as I get with physical descriptions.

I could use this to riff off into some thing about aging and the inevitability of death, but the truth is I don't care about aging and I don't see death as "inevitable", so for now I'll just enjoy the first signs of aging on my body while they still look distinguished.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Right

I'm a jerk.

Let me qualify this statement. When it comes to matters of being right, I am a jerk. This has become abundantly clear to me out here in California as I sit around and have many discussions with my coworkers. A point of fact will come up and my we'll disagree on something simple (for example, the number of movies about Sherlock Holmes made by Guy Ritchie). Being quite sure of myself, I stake my claim in rightness and establish a firm foothold. Someone else firmly establishes their disagreement. It usually ends in a google search.

Due to my personality, I really stick on some things and so these interactions often get quite personal for me. It's really useless though. Ultimately no one feels good in the end, and we haven't changed anything by having a discussion about Sherlock Holmes.

I'm trying to stop being so concerned about this kind of stuff. At the same time I'm discovering that people in the top slice of school bring out these exchanges significantly more often than those in the middle or at the bottom. Is it possible that high achievement brings the expectation that you're always right? Maybe, but if it does then I should also get off my high horse and get humble when it comes to arguments because I used to be in that top slice.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Meaghan

I'm sitting at the foot of Candy Mountain which reminds me of one of many standing jokes I had with Meaghan during our friendship, so it's appropriate that I write this post here and now.

When I was in high school, I hit a social dead spot. After Grade 10, I had few friends in Kingston and I had been kicked out of my Counter-Strike clan so I had very little personal interaction at home outside my family. All of this changed when I met Meaghan in the summer after Grade 10. On any given night, I'd talk to Meaghan over MSN at least once. Conversations would jump around randomly and often centered around internet videos, but we developed a close friendship. We also did a lot of stuff together in real life when we were able to meet up. I think if it wasn't for Meaghan's friendship, I might have found my later years of high school much more difficult.

Meaghan, thanks for making high school easier.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sabbath

I've been here for 10 weeks now. It's been 67 days out here, and in that time, we've had 3 scheduled days off, 3 3/4 days, and 8 travel days. Right now I'm sitting at the picnic table, feeling completely exhausted. My boss is feeding me lines from her supervisor about still working for the rest of our time here minus one say (16 days). I don't really know how to respond at this point.

I can understand working two weeks without a day off. It's hard but you get through it. But this schedule is insane. There's no tie to the rhythm of the week, there's no connection to a location, there's little option for outside communication, and little rest. This feels inhumane.

When God created the world, he took six days to do it. Then on the seventh day, he took a break. When he issues the law to Moses and Isreal at Mt. Sinai, he told them to work for six days and then take a break. I think there is a great wisdom in this. We are cursed to work the ground, but we can't do it 7 days a week.

I remember a guy at camp who told me about an experience he had after working without sabbath over the course of a full summer. He said it felt like he left his body for a moment at the end. There is something deeply dehumanizing about endless work. Sabbath rest helps us to regain that humanity.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Left Behind

So I made it to NorCal (Northern California for those of you who were once as uninformed as I). There's not much in the way of cell reception out here, so my wonderful feeling of being connected to home has sort of evaporated. Oddly enough, I get reception on Goldbluff Beach (which is out on the coast 4 miles from the highway) but nothing in the campground.

It's getting towards the end of my trip so my correspondence with people has tapered off as I've made it through my backlog of people to email, and I've been getting a reduced volume of regular correspondence from others.

It's been making me think about how in my position, communication with home has been vital to my continued survival. Twitter and emails provide an outlet to connect with others and that has kept me sane and happy and it has made the experience much more enjoyable.

On the other end, I think the people I'm emailing don't have the same level of need for my emails to them. It's healthy for our friendships, but I don't know that not hearing from me would have the same effect on them that not hearing from them has on me. It's sort of like I need them, and they don't rely on me as heavily.

These sorts of unbalanced arrangements occur often in life. Someone who is receiving welfare or a gift of some sort from someone exists in a very different kind of relationship than someone who has an equal work partnership. One of the things I want to take away from this trip is the identification of those relationships. I don't want to forget how much some people might rely on me. I want to hold those unbalanced relationships with great care.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Snub

High school regularly serves up some rough justice. If the academics aren't tossing you around, there's always the social aspect that many people seem to fail at.

You're probably wondering why this is coming out now. Most people leave high school, wash their hands and forget about the whole experience. Well, most people left high school before Facebook. Facebook allows the people you knew in high school to taunt you with their photos and status updates.

Ok maybe I'm descending into a rant here. I've been flipping through photos of my friends from high school on Facebook and I keep finding pictures of the same group of people still doing stuff together 4 years later. I open a photo album and find a wedding or a table full of people I used to see every day and now only see online.

Something I've been learning on this trip is that I tend to drop out of people's lives, often on purpose. High school was one of those times when I did that, and I think it shows. I haven't talked to anyone outside of a small group in years, so I don't really get invited to stuff with those people anymore.

I think it might be too late to make up for the lost time in my high school, but at least I can fix the problem in the future. I'll certainly be keeping up with all the emailing of people.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Driving

We drive around a lot these days. Most of the posts are written while driving up and down the coast of California through towns with strange names and strange histories. I spend most of it in the front seat, watching the world go by, and occasionally navigating.

When we got here, everything was weird. My coworkers started to joke about how often I said "this is so weird". When you fly to the opposite coast, everything in the windows around you is so foreign. Everything is novel and spectacular. You take so many landscape pictures, and remark at everything you see.

We drive a lot though, and things get less novel. I don't comment on how weird things are anymore. I've grown accustomed to the formerly foreign California landscape. I don't stare out in wonder as much anymore. I'm adjusting to the scenery.

When I get back home to Ontario, I want to remember to always find joy in the landscape around me. It's beautiful, expansive, and green. I want to pay more attention to the scenery at home and not get so detached.

Monday, July 11, 2011

James

I met James almost at complete random. I was sitting in Psychology one day and James came up to me and asked "are you Ben?". We had been made aware of each other through a mutual friend, and discovered we had a few more mutual friends.

Men tend to develop friends through shared interests and activities. James and I have had a lot of shared activities. When we were roommates in second year, we spent many a night playing video games or watching each other play video games. We also share a lot of the same interests and so we've had many a discussion on music, hockey, and church. James was a solid roommate and continues to be a solid friend.

James, thanks for being solid.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Echoes

I waver back and forth a lot when it comes to writing here. If I write a lot, people seem to visit the page more regularly. However it's hard to get excited about writing posts with such an invisible audience. It makes content production a bit difficult.

What motivates me to write the most is when my posts here become a dialogue with others. I write what I write because I've thought about it and come to some kind of conclusion, but it feels a bit like I'm yelling back at my own echoes if no one says anything about it. The times when I write the most tend to be the times when people say the most about what I've written.

It's a bit like having an audience. Not having an audience makes performing kind of pointless, but as soon as you have one person in the audience, the whole dynamic changes. Suddenly you have someone to offer your work to.

I'm not really getting at anything specific here, I just have a strange relationship with my writings here and sometimes I need to address the medium with which I write.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jason

In first year, I lived with a bunch of people (who I'll get to eventually in this series). Our house had an open door policy and so my door was always open for visitors. It was rare to be interrupted by anyone, but if anyone came in it was usually Jason. I'd be doing something like aimlessly browsing the internet, and in he would come to engage in lively conversation about life and whatever I happened to be doing.

This is a pretty good summary of one of Jason's best qualities. You are sitting there on your own, and suddenly in he comes with suggestions to enrich your life, or things to do. Too often, I find myself feeling sluggish and stagnant, and Jason is usually the one to stick his head in my room and say "Ben, let's go".

This goes for small things like social outings, but this also goes for big life changing stuff. Jason is often the one who helps me get out of bad habits or patterns of stagnant living. Our lengthy conversations over a pitcher of beer (most commonly Whitetail Cream Ale from the Kingston Brewing Company) have had a lot of weight in some decisions I've made, and I think that's for the better.

Jason, thanks for the figurative kick in the pants when I need it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Church

I've been going to Next Church for almost two years now. I started going after a brief church tour in Kingston revealed that the crowd was a good fit for me and Amanda liked it too.

Sometimes when I go to church, the greeters ask me if I've been there before. You might think this rude or ignorant of them, but the truth is they are often justified in this reaction. I probably do look like a visitor often. It's a problem that's been somewhat magnified since I arrived here. Magnified in the sense that I've been thinking about that reaction a lot.

Not everybody goes to church. I understand this, so let me expand the scope of what I'm talking about so that you might understand. Everybody engages with some type of community whether it's people at work or your Monday night basketball league. Over time, you get to know these people and you develop jokes, bonds and patterns and you become comfortable with these people. It's only natural. We're built to be social and bond with others.

In any given group, there's someone who's a bit of a flake. Sometimes they don't show up, sometimes the sneak in late and leave early. Everyone is friendly with them, but because of their spotty attendance and flaky nature, they are not as well integrated with the group. Maybe people don't trust them, maybe they don't think it's worth the time if they're just going to leave, or maybe people just don't have enough time with this person to develop a bond.

I am this person at my church. I show up often late, sneak out after the service, and have involved myself minimally in church stuff. Sometimes I just don't show up at church for weeks at a time because "it's summer" or "it's Christmas". I'm non-commital and it's showing in how people at church relate to me.

I do this to people too. Sometimes I just stop interacting with a group of friends or stop doing an activity. Either way I disappear, and it's something I need to work on as I try to figure more stuff out in this crazy life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Amanda

How does one sum up their relationship with a significant other in a single post. It's tough to do. Amanda and I have been dating for almost 2 and a half years now and there's a lot there. Let me try.

Spontaneity is probably my favourite thing about Amanda. She is willing to go along with just about anything. She's up for making plans at 11 PM, and she's willing to go on long trips on short notice. Once after a particularly long day, we went to see a movie with a friend. After this movie, we started driving back home and headed for the highway, I asked her "do you want to go to Toronto?". She replied "I was just about to ask you the same thing. Yes."
So at 10 on a school night we got on the highway and drove to Toronto. It turned out to be a lot of fun. We shared a drink with my sister and had a long chat in the car. It was great to have someone who would go along with plans so easily, and it made for a great story.

Amanda, thanks for your spontaneity.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Friends

I can be a really bad friend. My tongue is not the most careful of organs and often I make statements (often in jest) that hurt others. Sometimes I am not careful about the stories that I share. I try to make up for these things with apologies, but often I do not right the wrongs I have committed. I want to take the time to fix that. I've decided to spin one series of posts out of this one. It will probably be a long series of posts but I would like to share some things that I really appreciate about the people around me. I want to tell you all (all twelve of you) about my friends so that you do not get only one side of the story.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I didn't bring all my music out here. I didn't think I needed to. I figured I would bring a little bit and enjoy that. Before I left, Amanda (my girlfriend if I haven't mentioned that here before) loaned me her ipod touch and at some point I discovered that I could download music directly on to it. This has led me to re-purchase a number of albums that I have at home, out of a deep desire to hear them, and often because I never paid for the in the first place.

Today I re-purchased Takk by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros (see-grr ross). I first heard about this album from my brother-in-law Shawn and my sister Alison during my formative music years. They told me about this band that made an album using a bow on a guitar, singing in made up languages, and having a minute of silence mid album. It sounded interesting but I was busy listening to something else so I didn't check it out.

Then in the summer of 2006, I was in Grand Rapids and I had dinner at the home of a media studies professor at Calvin College who is a relative of my sister Melody (that's the simplest way I can explain it). I expressed interest in some sufjan he was playing so he gave me a bunch of live sufjan recordings and then asked me if I'd heard Sigur Ros. I said no. He said "they will change your life man".

I don't know how much of that was meant to be hyperbole, but listening to Takk... (The album that he gave me) changed the way I looked at making music. It was suddenly ok to be dynamic instead of always having to be punchy and loud. I found that following along on the rollercoaster of moods on the album led me on a really cool journey. I got into music because of Broken Social Scene but Sigur Ros expanded my horizons greatly.

I'm going to enjoy hearing this album again. It's been a while.

Monday, June 27, 2011

God

What do you say about something as complex and as dense as God? People spend their entire lives studying him through his words and his actions, and yet no one claims to understand God. I can say very little in this space so I'll just touch on some smaller details.

I think short term. My frame of time on this earth has been short (21 years) and even if I live to be 80, I will still not have lived through much of human history.

When things happen around me, I often try to see the purpose in them. I know that God is a powerful force of good, and so I try to see what good he is doing in the world. However, I think short term and am a finite being so my ability to comprehend God's purpose is very limited.

Sometimes things happen that don't really seem to serve a purpose. The summer of 2008 is one example of this but there are others. Each one serves to mystify me as I try to see purpose in a situation that just looks like chaos and evil. How could a God who is good allow this chain of events to occur? Where is the purpose in this?

I don't think some of these questions will ever be resolved. If there is one thing I know about God, it is that he likes to remain deeply mysterious and so it is likely that these situations will remain a mystery.

God does not always answer my questions. I am learning to be ok with this.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Death

I've been thinking about death for about a year now. It is not an exciting topic and it still gets me pretty depressed. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense because I understand that ultimately, this life is just a starting point for a renewed creation with God. I guess this is just a good illustration that head knowledge does not translate into deep understanding.

When I think about death, my thought go to the idea of not existing and then my stomach does a flip. At least that's how it was up until the end of the third week out here. It was made worse by a rant from my super-boss. He started talking about death and is an atheist so the whole conversation made my stomach do the equivalent of a floor routine. It was almost like someone had hit me in the gut with a cinder block.

I was taken aback by all this. I got very depressed and realized that this is what I'd been thinking for an entire year, I'd just never stopped long enough to realize it. The only way I knew how to resolve it was to go back to my understanding of reality. I had to go back to God and figure it out from there.

After spending a few weeks out here thinking about it, I'm getting back to normal. My stomach isn't in knots and I am less depressed. I'm also in a better head space. I'm praying and reading through a lot of these depressing thoughts in order to get through.

I started listening to sermons to help me through these things. One of them talked about our journey in life as being like an amusement park. We are a small child, and God leads us through it. As long as we hold on to God's hand and stay close to him, we are assured that we are safe and we can enjoy the park. As soon as we let go of his hand and try to explore things without him, we realize that it's a very big and frightening universe, and we get scared and anxious. It's in times like this that I remember I'm trying to walk without holding God's hand, and I need to run back to it and remember how good it feels.

I'm learning it's ok to be child-like when it comes to some things, and I'm trying to remember that I have nothing to fear from death if I seek God. It's still scary sometimes but I'm doing better now.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Science

I'm in a biology program. I thought it would be a good way to strengthen my faith and help me to gain a better understanding of the world around me. I'm not sure if it has accomplished either goal. Let me share a pile of thoughts on science with you.

Science is strange. It starts with the assumption that what we can see and verify physically is all that there is. This isn't done with any malicious intent. It is done to encourage the deep exploration of many topics. This creates an environment where you don't really discuss God or philosophy in a context that doesn't involve trying to explain why they occurred evolutionarily or how they function in our brains.

Biology seems to have an explanation for everything. Some of the hardest moments in my university career have occurred when one of my professors generates an explanation for something we see in nature which relates back to natural selection. They take things as beautiful and complex as human emotion and distill it down to a way to increase mating potential and survival. It's interesting to talk about but sometimes it's just incredibly depressing.

I think science is valuable, but I don't know that there's much there to hang your soul on. Some people would feel differently about this but if you suck all the mystery and purpose out of life, it makes everything seem pretty pointless. "If I am here as a consequence of the universe, I can do whatever I want". I don't buy it though. Science as a supporting document to the protocol of my life is good but science makes a very unstable central pillar. As Tommy Tiernan would say, it's not enough to hang your coat on, never mind your soul.

I prefer the mathematicians approach to the world. A mathematician looks at something and seeks to discover patterns and order. Upon finding these things, he says to himself "How amazing". I much prefer this approach.

I'm getting out of science after this trip and exploring other things. I think it's for the best.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Summer of 2008

Foreword: The following is a series of posts about what I'm thinking while I'm out here in California. I have been feeling very depressed since I got here which comes from a combination of homesickness and heavy things to think about. I wanted to write about these things in an attempt to be honest about my life. The following series contains content that is sad. I hope you glean something good from it.

When I write here, I tend to get preachy. I talk about things that I've "figured out". This lends itself well to essay writing but not to sharing. Let me share with you some things I don't have figured out. We'll start with the summer of 2008.

The summer of 2008 is unresolved in my mind because it plays out like a tragedy, and I have this belief that everything should turn out like a comedy. I don't think things should end up shitty and broken, I think they should end up beautiful and full of love. The summer of 2008 turned into a tragedy of such a scale that I don't think anyone came out of it ahead of where they came in.

The summer of 08 was spent working at summer camp. It started off beautifully enough. I had just moved out of my parents house on a fairly positive note, had finished high school, was about to start university, and was supposed to run a radio station. I was working with many of my friends and it was supposed to be a good summer. Things didn't go well from the start.

The radio station didn't work. I got moved to do a different job and worked with some other people. As I had discussions with others, I got the impression that no one was doing well emotionally or spiritually.

One of my best friends had started off a great summer in a position where he felt like he was really making a difference. Then he got involved in a dispute with another co-worker that led to him being pulled out of his position and reassigned for a while. The dispute to this day has not been resolved, and it took a noticeable toll on my friend who was unable to complete the good things he had started at the beginning of the summer.

Other stuff happened. People quit, friendships got broken, some other people got fired, and I lost a coworker in midweek due to a situation which was incredibly murky and complex. I also had my laptop stolen.

Obviously it's hard to explain without using names and situations. I apologize that my writing here is only a crude scribble of the situation. I hope it gives you some idea of the chaos and problems this summer wrought though.

Every single person I can think of who was there for that whole summer was changed by the events. Friends who were once set in their beliefs were wildly rocked out of their seats. Some never returned to camp. Some never returned to the same way of life. From my perspective, I can not understand what the purpose or the reason for that summer was. I can not understand why God would allow so much pain and broken relationships in a place established in his name. I didn't get why so many people had allowed such injustice to pass by without doing anything. Never have I seen so much darkness go unilluminated.

I'm still trying to see God in it. I'm still trying to figure out the purpose in all this pain. Maybe someday I will understand but for now it hangs heavy in my thoughts.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Wanderer, Far From Home

I miss home.

There I said it. I. Miss. Home.

This probably doesn't come as a surprise to many of you. I've been emailing as many people as I can since leaving and I seem to include this detail in all of them but in case you were wondering, it's true. I miss home.

I've never been a good traveller. A week away from home and I am good and ready to go back when it's over. I have things, rituals, people, and places that I love at home and being away makes me miss them a lot more.

Yet somehow, the allure of travel often grabs me. Somewhere else might be cool to visit. It would be neat to have something new to explore. So I leave home and head out into the world, and each time I return after a week or two feeling positive about the whole experience.

This is how I thought this trip would go but I was very wrong. This trip is not for a week. This trip is for 85 days. This is a 3 month trip. There is no going home on the red eye the following Sunday, this is a prolonged relocation. So the feeling settles on me and follows me around everywhere.

I miss home.

I've had a number of conversations this year with people who tell me of their great desire to go to Europe and Asia, or Australia. They want to see the world and they want to do it with such passion. I don't share this passion at all. "London would be nice" I'll say "Or maybe Japan, but not for very long, and there's no rush". I am a local boy.

I am one who misses home.

Monday, May 30, 2011

In The Field

Well, I made it here. The whole time I've been here, I keep repeating that it's weird. California is a foreign country and it sure feels like it. I don't really like it but it's interesting to visit.

Being on this trip has taught me that I don't really like to travel. All of the things I normally enjoy in life, like routine, friends, familliar places, just get thrown out the window here. I live in a tent, sleep on an air mattress, and move around every 10 days. My brain has reacted to this by filling up with anxiety or totally turning off. I'm not really sure either is a good thing right now. I am trying to cope in many ways though. I bought a Blackberry while I'm out here so I've been doing my best to correspond with people. I usually get 1 or 2 emails in a day and people have been writing me which is really nice. It helps the time pass a little more quickly. I have also learned to appreciate podcasts of various kinds. This past week I started listening to sermons from Mars Hill Church (in Washington) and Mars Hill Bible Church (in Michigan). Listening to both churches has been really interesting because they are both mega churches but they could not have more different perspectives. Two sides of the same coin as James might say.

Being out here has forced me to ask a lot of tought questions and reconsider a lot of things I've been doing. I am a Christian and in my quest for academic success and friends, I think I lost sight of that. I became afraid that my perception of reality would put a bad taste in people's mouths. I have come to the conclusion that it does not really matter how people percieve me though, what is important is that I fully invest in what I say that I believe (orthopraxy as it is called). Right now not much has changed but I have another two months here and I can feel my perspective starting to change.

I might write again, but I also may not. It depends on how the mood strikes me. Things written on here may be somewhat different than they were before though.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Final Thoughts (While Listening to All Delighted People)

I'm leaving for a while. I don't know exactly when I'll be back, although I do know the season. I've spent the past week preparing to leave by taking care of some old business. I wrote some notes to people, I finished some stuff I agreed to do for some people, I cleaned up my mess in the house, arranged to have someone take care of my plant, and watched some hockey.

I was telling a friend over beers that the fact that I'm going to California for the WHOLE summer wouldn't hit me until I got on the plane. I was wrong. It is hitting me now. I am going to miss the entire Ontario summer. I need to think about this.

I feel a bit like John the Baptist in this situation. I don't eat locusts and wild honey, I don't wear camel hide, and I'm not preparing the way for the savior of the world, but I'm running off into the wilderness for a while. Part of me hopes that I will have a profound experience while I am away in the wilderness. It would be awesome if I could come back and change the world with some kind of revolutionary idea. I think it's unlikely that this will happen because I usually just come back with some pictures and strange stories, but I am open to the possibility.

I was reading about Sufjan Stevens this evening (because I do things like that when I have few responsibilities) and I discovered that in the 5 years since he released Illinois, he suffered from an unexplained illness and had an existential crisis. That's what you need to do these days if you don't want to be a celebrity. Just have a nervous breakdown and then you can hide out while you make your next album.

I feel like something's going to happen while I'm on the dunes, but you won't hear about it til I get back...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hobbies

(Please excuse my posting schedule. Life is crazy for the next 4 months on account of being out of the country)

Recently, I was talking with one of my housemates. We were discussing the various hobbies or past-times that boomers seem to have, whether it's model airplanes, carving, gardening, toll painting, or whatever else. It seems like once you reach a certain age, you pick up a hobby and that becomes the thing you're known for.

So then the questioning turned to both of us and what kinds of hobbies we might like to have when we get older. I didn't really know how to answer this. For the longest time, I've been a nerd and so my hobby has been video games. However, on account of my recent lack of money and a desire to spend my time in other ways, I've gotten rid of most of my games and have turned to other pursuits. This is a process that's been ongoing since High School, and so I'm kind of in between hobbies now.

I'm trying to branch out and move into outdoor activities instead of doing indoor stuff. I have a bike and I'm trying to ride it, I have a skateboard and I try to use that, and I often toy with thoughts of cross-country skiing. I don't seem to have the same focus that others do about their hobbies though. I feel like I should probably pick one hobby and then stick to it.

What about you? Where do you fall on this hobby-based journey? Are you an expert at something unrelated to your field or do you dabble like I do? You should look into these kinds of things. You never know when you might have some spare time.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Moved

I'm writing this from the library on this beautiful Sunday morning as I am currently sort of homeless. Let me explain.

Yesterday my 4 housemates and I moved out of our 7 bedroom apartment. As you can probably imagine, we had a plethora of stuff and were woefully underprepared for the amount of work it was going to take to move and clean. Fortunately we had a lot of gracious helpers (My sister, my parents, my roommate's brother and parents) and we managed to finish in time but not without a lot of hard work and two u-haul trucks. Thanks to everyone's help we got the last of our stuff out and the last things clean just in time to make our 12 AM deadline. Then my sister, my girlfriend and I spent an hour trying to find a hotel before settling down and tossing and turning for a few hours. I am so incredibly sore but am so incredibly glad everything is moved and cannot fully express my gratitude to all those who helped us today.


However, I can't move in to my new place yet. My stuff is there (it currently fills the shed, a corner of the basement, and part of the dining room) but I can't move in yet, so I'm waiting in the library, writing this post, and trying to rest my sore muscles. I have little concept of date or time, and at this stage all I am aware of is that it's Sunday May 1st and I'm pretty much done moving.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Morning Post

In a bid to reduce procrastination, I modified the settings on our Internet at home so my internet connection doesn't turn on until 12. This means I procrastinate less but it also means no timely Monday Morning Post. Sorry Friends.

I just finished up a week of working and sort of studying in Westport. I received a couple of shifts at my occasional call in job at Camp Iawah. I cooked some food, cleaned some rooms, and did some dishes. It was a good time. Then I went off and wrote an exam on Wednesday. I don't know how I did but I wrote an exam. That's how I feel about most of my exams these days. They're ok but I don't know if I'm actually doing well in them or not. It's tough to say.

Today at 2 I write my second exam (oooo, second exam at two o clock). I don't know if I'm prepared or not because it's difficult to say whether or not I've actually learned anything in the class. Some profs are a little ambiguous in my opinion. I understand the material though so hopefully I'll be okay to survive. After this I've only got three more so it should be fine.

Oh, and I'm moving. Life is moving fast at the moment. Faster than I'd like.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Am Okay At Science But I Am A Bad Scientist

Well, the title pretty much sums it up. Let me elaborate though.

Being a scientist involves a group of skills. One is knowing what is going on in current research. Two is developing good questions that have not already been asked in current research. Three is designing experiments to answer these good questions.

I am bad at keeping up with current research. There is a lot of it, and there are other things I'd rather do than read through copies of "Science", "Nature", and "New Phytologist". Why make excuses about how I'm overworked when really, I'd never want to keep up with current research.

I am bad at developing good questions that have not been answered. I'm taking a course this term that requires me to write a research proposal. It took me a month to come up with a good question for my proposal. Meanwhile there are kids in my classes who come up with interesting questions like it is nobody's business. I am clearly not as good at this process as some other people are. I also have a tendency to be very reductionistic in my thinking which makes teaching much easier but limits my ability to discover and generate new questions.

I am okay at generating experiments to test hypotheses but sometimes I make up methods that don't exist and aren't necessarily possible. I'm pretty sure I made up an impossible method for my research proposal.

I am okay with all of this. In fact this is actually a great relief. To know that I am a bad science means I can stop banging my head against the wall of biology and start doing something that I am more apt at.

All of this is to say that I am bad at stuff and there are better uses for my time then trying to continually pursue them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Monday Afternoon Post

I forgot. Well, actually a more accurate description would be that I had to work from 7-12 this morning which didn't leave me a lot of time to write, but this is simply an excuse. Here is the Monday afternoon post.

Not a whole lot going on this week. I'm attempting to study for exams and working at camp a bunch. This morning I cleaned for a while and now I'm attempting to study for an exam. Not going so well but hopefully it gets better.

That's really about it right now. Hopefully next week's post will be less boring.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Don't Let That Be It


The video above was made by some people who are currently organizing an event aimed at communicating a message of community to people at Queen's. I think it's a great idea as it's another opportunity to remind people that there are people all around them who are suffering in silence because they don't feel like they can talk about it. By the time you read this, it will be over.

The problem won't be though. We hear stories all the time, often too late, about students who felt excluded or distant even though it looked like they were being included. These are issues that have been occuring for a long time and will continue to occur for a long time into the future.

This just makes it all the more important that we don't think "Misson Accomplished" at the end of the day. Next year new first years will come in and many of them will come to Queen's experiencing feelings of depression and exclusion. We need to keep passing on the message that "Queen's Loves U" every single day if we really want a chance at making a difference.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Some Thoughts On Today

Many people have taken some time out of their day to sit down and write about their experiences and thoughts on mental health issues at Queen's. I wanted to take some time to share my experiences with this issue, which come from a different perspective than most.

Last year my girlfriend experienced a deep and long depression over the course of several months. To this day, we still talk about what triggered it, and the experiences that followed. I don't want to get into details because that's her story to share and she's shared it to many at this point. What I want to share is some of the things I've learned while trying to help her out.

1) It's not personal - Sometimes people can't control their actions. I've been pushed away by people who have asked for help more than a few times. My first reaction to these situations was to get upset. "They said they wanted help, why won't they just let me help?". Gradually (all too gradually for my taste) I learned not to take these kinds of things personally. I learned to identify these actions with the disorder, not with the person. Through this process I learned to keep these things from getting in the way of trying to help.

2) Don't feign interest - You've no doubt had an experience where someone asked how you were doing, and you said "good" even though this was blatantly not true. So often we hide how we're really feeling because we don't want to bother other people with our problems. This is also true for people struggling with how they're feeling. They don't want their problems to be a burden on others or they don't want others to know what they're thinking because they think it will make things worse. You have to learn to really think about what you're saying when you ask "how are you doing?"; ask follow up questions, get them to tell you specifics, ask "really?" in disbelief. Even if they aren't ready to talk yet, be interested in the ongoings of their lives. Anything you can do to show people that you are interested in them as a person will make it easier for them to believe you when you say that you want to help, and it will make it harder for them to lie to you about how they're feeling.

3) Be honest - This concept goes for you too. If you want people to be honest with you about how they're feeling, you have to do the same. Are you feeling extremely anxious? Tell friends when they ask you how you're doing. We're not all doing fine and pretending we are just makes it harder to seek help when we really need it.

4) You can't do it alone - I am guilty of this one more times than I can count. Sometimes I think that with enough hugs, enough happy movies, enough encouraging words, I can fix things. I think that I don't need to get others involved. Then I have a bad day and end up taking it out on the person I'm trying to help. People need more than just one person to help them through these difficult times, because if we spread the load around no one gets crushed under it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

All In

There's a new ad campaign out from Adidas (featured below). It features a variety of their sponsored people doing the things that they do and at the end, it runs through their tagline for the campaign. The tagline is "____ is all in".

I could talk about how athletic advertising is bullshit, but I like the line. It's making me think about what I do.

Ben is all in.



Monday, April 4, 2011

Oh Yeah...The Monday Morning Post


I almost forgot to do this on this fine April morning which is featuring copious amounts of rain (good time of the year to have rain boots). However, here I am.

The reason why I almost forgot about this post is because I was up most of the weekend working on a trio of projects while trying to cram in some social interactions. The strange thing about these projects though is that once I finished the biggest one, the rest of them got finished so quickly. I cranked out a lab report and a poster in under 5 hours. I wish I had been able to do this in first year but I think I'm just seeing the results of a couple of years worth of hard work now paying off. Regardless of how it happened, it was really nice to feel good about my grasp on the content.

With those things out of the way, I'm now into full scale exam and California prep mode. I keep telling people that I'm going and it never gets old. It's really fun having a big experience coming up that I can tell people about.

In other news I'm reading a crazy book by Rob Bell called "Love Wins" right now. It has already generated its fair share of controversy but it has been helping me figure out a number of issues I've been having lately which is amazing. If you don't mind a little dose of controversy then it's a very good read.

I hate stating this because it means that I'll have to stick to it but I'm moving this blog to a three post a week format. I've started writing ahead of myself and it allows me to spend more time writing and be more scheduled in my posts here so if you check Monday after 12 PM and Wednesday and Friday after 7 AM you should see a new post. I hope you all enjoy the consistency. It will probably decrease somewhat in California.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go print one last sheet and put it on my poster so I can be finished and then I start on the last two assignments.


Friday, April 1, 2011

The Bus Station


My roommate moved to Toronto. It sucks but he comes back on weekends to visit which makes things better. On Fridays I go pick him up from the bus station.

I love the bus station. In the hours before I'm supposed to go there I mill about aimlessly, not really able to do anything. The hours creep by until it's time to go. Then as soon as I pull into the parking lot I get excited. Someone is coming back into my life. What could be better? I run over to the platform and wait, barely able to keep still. I plan the hug that is coming when the person gets here and I think about the things I want to ask them. I obsessively look for their bus down the road.

When the bus comes, a smile creeps across my face. The moment I've been waiting for finally comes. I watch through the front window for that person and when I see them, I move in. I let out all my excited energy in a hug and let all my questions out into the air. They are back.

So here's to all those trips to the bus station and the people we pick up. I think we could all use a few more trips to the bus stop.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Confessions of a Personal Nature


I bought rain boots. This is worth mentioning because if you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you that I would never do that. Even now, I'm extremely self conscious about owning them and even wearing them. Let me explain.

Rain boots have become a popular trend among the females of Kingston (particularly among students) and it's not uncommon to go through a day seeing a dozen or more pairs even when it's clearly not raining. I don't really know how this started but I first noticed it in first year. It seems kind of ridiculous to me that you would wear rubber boots in minus 15 but to each their own.

They're very practical though, and their sudden popularity means that there are lots of cool looking rain boots around. At some point I thought I should get a pair. But I hesitated for a very long time and though carefully about which pair I would buy. Why? I asked myself this question.

Because I didn't want to be ridiculed for wearing "girl clothes". That's right, I'm 21 years old and I still haven't graduated from elementary school. I am so concerned about being ridiculed that it still affects my decision making. This case is a little more sensitive than most because this particular topic has some further history for me but this is something I think about.

So the question remains, when do you stop caring about what other people will say enough to make totally independent decisions? Hopefully soon. But in the meantime, I've at least resolved this enough to enjoy my rain boots.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Monday Morning Post (03/28/11)

Good morning friends, welcome to a very brief Monday Morning post. I have lots to do this week so let me tell you about it.

Somewhere along the way I missed a note that there was a lab writeup due on Friday that I didn't plan for and seeing as it's the 2nd last week of class, this means that I will be doing mostly school for the rest of this week and next week. This is ok, but it means I will have to work extra hard this week and my social life will probably suffer the consequences.
There's also only two weeks of classes left. What the heck? When did that happen? I'm excited about this because when school is over I'm off to California but man, where did the time go.

Short I know but I have a million things to do now. I'll report back next week.

EDIT: I got a question last week

Question: What is "Ritual"?

Answer: "Ritual" is a tradition started by engineers as a way to unwind from a stressful week. What happens is at 1:30 PM on Friday, Clark Hall Pub opens for a couple of hours and anyone is welcome to come sit down, have a few drinks, request some music, and generally relax. There's a lot of traditions surrounding it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dear Department

Queen's Biology, we need to have a talk. It's been a really long time since we've met and I've let a lot of things slide in that time but now it's time to deal with them.

Why are you so big? My smallest 3rd year class has 80 people in it. I know the Ontario government keeps putting pressure on you to churn out more graduates but it's getting me down when I'm talking to people in other departments who drop class sizes by second year. This isn't just a class size problem either. You actually aren't big enough to fit everyone. You don't have enough spots to run seminars and thesis projects for all interested 4th years.

Which leads to my next point. Who thought the current system for 4th year was a good idea? The way it's supposed to works is Student's talk to professors about working with them, then everyone submits an application and Professors choose based on applicants. In reality, it seems a lot of professors just ignore this protocol and have all of their honours thesis students picked out before applications even come in. Instead of being a fair system, it gives a very poor illusion of being fair, and rewards only the top cut of students while leaving everyone else out to dry.

There's currently a big round of academic planning going on which gives me hope that some of these things can be fixed, but in the meantime Biology, consider our relationship to be on rocky ground.



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Helping People is Hard

Somewhere in my upbringing I got the idea into my head that helping people is easy, and can only lead to good things for you and those around you. As soon as you provide assistance for people, they get their lives back together and become better people. In return you get a nice pat on the back and escape with nothing but good feelings. Sometime in first year I started to realize that this was a pretty stupid assumption to operate on, and I developed a new way of thinking about things.

Helping people takes a long time. People usually end up in situations where things are bad because of some kind of longstanding issue. It might be a bad habit they have, or some past experience that's shaped their actions. These kinds of things take a very long time to tease out. There's an ad campaign going around that says it takes and average of 5 times before someone actually quits smoking, and that's for a habit that has a huge mound of evidence that says its bad. Imagine how much more difficult it would be if you had to first determine that the situation you were in was actually bad for you and others. It could take a longer time before you even start to get out of the situation. To assume that you can help people deal with their problems on any kind of short time scale (>1 yr) is very naive thinking.

Helping people does not always result in good things for you as the helper either. You might think that people will immediately realize the good things you are doing for them and pour out their graditude, but this is not always the case. Sometimes people think you're not doing them any good, and sometimes people fall prey to their problems which hurt you. To put it simply, if you help someone there's a good chance you might get burned somewhere during the course of helping them. This often causes people to stop helping, but like I've already talked about helping people is something that happens on a very long timeline and if you give up when you get burned, they might not ever be able to get out of their situation.

Helping people is not simple. It's difficult work that requires a lot of personal sacrifice. But if you earnestly dedicate yourself to helping someone, you can really make a difference.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Monday Morning Post

It's that time again. This Monday Morning Post brought to you at this ungodly hour by insomnia and the lovely Jenn Grant. It has been an eventful week in my life. Most of these events happened from Friday onwards but I thought all of them would be cool to tell you about.

I managed to survive the insane week of school work relatively unscathed. I wrote both midterms, handed in the assignment, and did the seminar without missing all my classes and without pulling out all of my hair. To top it all off I managed to do "cool things" this week.

I took my bike to be reparied at last. This is the bike that I got in a trade involving a PS3 in the parking lot of an apartment building so it's in need of a little bit of work but I'm hoping it looks good once I get it back.

I also went skateboarding a number of times this week. I recieved a skateboard from my girlfriend as a present and I am gradually getting over my inhibitions about riding it around. It makes me pay attention to things like hill grade and pavement quality so I guess that's good. It's also a lot of fun and great exercise.

Probably the most exciting day this week was Friday. After jumping head first into "The Journal issue", I was invited to attend "Ritual" by a person I met through twitter which means I can cross two items off my Queen's bucket list (meet a person over twitter, and attend Ritual).

Saturday involved a thorough goodbye for my housemate who has moved to Etobicoke to participate in an internship for college. We sent him off with best wishes even though he'll be back this weekend.

I feel this is getting a little long so I'll stop here with a final note. If you have questions that you'd like me to answer but feel to shy to ask them personally, send them to me through this link and I can answer them for you in the next Monday Morning Post. If you forget the link, I'll leave it in the sidebar under "Ask Me A Question".

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Journal Issue

Background: Today an editorial was posted in The Queen's Journal by the Journal staff. You can read it here.

I wanted to take a second to explain my position on the journal issue since it seems to be the thing to talk about today. I support the motion passed on March 10th that reads “That AMS Assembly directs the Media Services Director to conduct an analysis of the content of The Queen’s Journal during the current academic year and to subsequently report on the percentage of content that directly addresses student activities and events."

I wasn't able to make it to the AMS assembly due to a huge pile up of work around that time but I watched most of it online thanks to a live feed provided by Queen's TV . I watched the whole proces surrounding the motion, and listened to both sides and came to a conclusion. I agree with Victoria Pleavin (Former EngSoc President) Eril Berkok (Outgoing/Former COMPSA president) and a number of others when they said that this kind of information could be useful. We are not the only ones who think this would be useful because the motion passed 21 to 7 with 4 abstentions which makes for 2/3 of the assembly voters. At the very least, this report would tell us that The Journal is doing an excellent job, and we affirm their work as a collective undergraduate body. At the most it provides us with information on what our major news source is reporting on if it's not student activities and events.

Some people have said that this motion is trying to remove the editorial autonomy of The Journal. However, according to the bylaws governing The Journal, The Journal is granted editorial autonomy over it's content.
The editorial autonomy of The Journal is guaranteed by the AMS Constitution and Corporate By-laws. Opinions expressed shall not necessarily be those of the AMSAMS, the University, or any body or officer thereof. The Journal shall regularly bear notice to this on the editorials page. - Journal Bylaw 1.03
So unless this bylaw is repealed, the AMS has no say over what stories The Journal writes or doesn't write.

However, there are guidelines in the bylaws about what The Journal is supposed to talk about.
"The Journal shall strive to give an accurate account of news and events relevant to the University, including elections, AMS Assembly, the Corporation and referenda, and to discuss questions of current interest." - AMS Bylaws 13.01.01
It seems reasonable to me that the AMS conduct a review to ensure that The Journal is complying with it's requirements as stated in the bylaws. As long as the AMS does not try to intervene in any way, then the AMS can conduct an entirely legal audit of Journal content.

I believe that nothing could be better than more accountability, especially for an organization that myself and the rest of the student body are funding. If The Journal really feels that they are doing an exemplary job of publishing relevant content, then an audit should show just that and we can all be done with this issue.

The Journal's response to this motion has been extremely inappropriate for a campus newspaper. The immediate reaction was a lot of anger from members of The Journal over Twitter, and the formation of a campaign called #teamjournal. This was followed by today's copy of The Journal which contained a 1/2 page editorial on the situation and a full page print ad.

The Journal has yet to report on this issue in its news section which is contrary to "good practice" as defined by The Journal's own bylaws "It is usually good practice to refrain from editorializing on a given topic until the details have been reported in the news section"- Journal bylaw 4.03 ,but the editorial is still within its rights as mandated by their bylaws. However, the full page print ad is totally uncalled for. It features a picture of former EngSoc President Victoria Pleavin prominently, and goes on to claim that she wants The Journal to "only write about what Victoria Pleavin wants us to" .

The motion makes no mention about any action on this report, it only claims to be involved in the collection of data relating to The Journal. If it gets to the point where the AMS was trying to interfere with the "Editorial Autonomy" of The Journal then they'd have grounds for these kinds of comments but right now they're making an argument that's a few motions ahead of this one and they're singling out a former EngSoc president. This is just wrong and it's not fair for the main news source in campus to go out of its way to try and defame someone who's no longer in power.

I think it's important that The Journal not be a propaganda machine of the AMS, but I don't think that gives them immunity from having their content examined and I don't think it's appropriate for them to respond with personal attacks.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On the Outside

I did everything wrong when it came to making friends in University. I started school a year later, I didn't live in residence, I went to school in my hometown, and I went to a school that I had no particular attachment to. By the time the high of frosh week had ended and everyone had returned to normal, I found myself repeatedly on the outside of just about every social group I could find. Frosh leaders and frosh group members often acted like they didn't know me in school situations, and I found it extremely difficult to meet any new people. I tried participating in some campus activities. I joined an intramural team and tried to get involved in a campus newspaper, but it just got so awkward that I just gave up on it and figured I'd focus on school instead.

Things have gotten better in the last year, but not because of anything institutional that's going on. I started meeting people in labs and went on a couple of field trips with school this year so I'm meeting more people. However, I still get the impression that I'm not engaging as much in Queen's as the rest of students are. Maybe this whole thing is just my fault or is due to my inherent awkwardness, but there have to be ways to help prevent situations like the one I'm in now. There's got to be an easier way to help new students to feel like they're welcome to join in and start working with clubs and groups, and there's got to be a way to run an oritentation week that's not completely different from the rest of the year. I just hope someone's thinking about this kind of stuff.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Labels (The Record Kind)

Record Labels: A concept that is rapidly becoming as outdated as the term used to describe it. I realize I'm probably a couple of years to late for this to be a timely group of thoughts but let me spell it out for you.

Making music used to be really frigging expensive. It still can be, but in the old days the amount of money required to record, produce, manufacture, and promote a piece of must was incredible. This led to the need for a larger group to back artists financially and lay out the initial cost so that music could be produced. This means that record labels are basically investors who invest in you as a musician and say "we believe this person will sell a lot of product". You would provide music for them to record, they would make you a record, sell it and promote it, and compensate you with a small royalty (maybe 10% of the actual sales of the record). You made most of your money by performing, which the record company organized as part of its promotion to sell the record. It worked for a long time because it was the only way to do things.

A couple of things have made the arrangement less necessary though, which is part of the reason for the demise of the record label. The first thing was cheaper production costs for music. If you work hard at it, you can buy yourself a home studio and get enough training to run it competently. It won't be percfect, but you can record a halfway decent album and have a lot of control over the sound for very little money. This made the financial backing of record labels less necessary for recording music. Second was the advent of tapes and CD burners. No longer would you need to get someone else to manufacture your music, you could do it yourself with relatively cheap equipment. Third was the explosion of the internet. This made music promotion extremely cheap, because anyone could set up a myspace for free and provide information about your band to anyone in the world. You didn't need a huge promotion machine anymore for people to hear your music.

So now we've removed the need for a record label for production, manufacturing, and promotion. The only thing the labels had left was their ability to book shows, and that too disappeared with the invention of the internet. Now that everyone was self promoting, they started booking their own shows due to the relative ease of communicating with promoters and venue people. This removed the need for huge financial backing to make music. However, by this time labels had so much money and had gotten so big (you can still find stories about labels getting artists to sing their songs in a different language, because there was a market for it ) that no one really thought about doing things a different way.

Then came Napster, which carved up a nice chunk of labels revenue. No longer did people have to buy music, they could get it for free on the internet. It didn't last for long but it planted the idea in people's heads that music was worth something other than what they were paying. Now that labels started making less money, they started passing less money on to artists, and artists started leaving to make their own music with their own money, thus began the age of "indie" record labels.

So there you go, a lengthy deconstruction of record labels. In honour of their demise, let's listen to Johnny Cash sing in German.


Johnny Cash - Wo ist zuhause, Mama? - MyVideo

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Monday Morning Post

I was reading old blogs, remembered that I used to do a post every Wednesday morning and it was great. However, I don't have any time to blog on Wednesday morning so I present the Monday morning post.

Usually I just use this as an excuse to talk about what's new in my life. I won't try and catch you up on what's going on these days but I'll tell you about my week. This week is full of insanity. I've got assignment after exam after assignment due this week and not a whole lot of time to finish them all. Last night I was up til 3 due to a combination of work and not being able to sleep. Tonight I may post similar numbers depending on how late my night class goes. Its times like this that make me realize how tame the rest of the year can be by comparison.

I'm also still working on finishing up this Graven record that was supposed to be out this month. It keeps taking more time than I want it to but we're ALMOST there. I'm finishing the last two tracks next week sometime and then I can finish it up and send it off to be mastered. It will be nice to get it out the door and off to be finished. I hope people enjoy it as much as we enjoyed recording it.

Progress on my summer job in California also continues this week. I'm signing paper work with the professor who hired me on Wednesday and then I'm officially hired (for real this time). We're also supposed to talk about my job description that day so I look forward to how that goes.

And that's about it. Consider yourselves all caught up thanks to the Monday Morning Post.