Moving on


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My dear 49 followers and anyone else who finds themselves reading this:

This blog began, of course, as an assignment for my multimedia production class. At the time I thought I could combine personal posts and academic posts in the same blog, but gradually realized that this wasn’t the best strategy for building a strong online presence.

This semester I am taking two more classes which require me to keep a blog, feature writing and multimedia writing & storytelling. I considered adding the assigned posts for these classes to this blog, but quickly rejected the idea. Instead I am taking the advice of my wise and social media savvy professor and will be keeping separate blogs for each class I am in. Therefore, if you followed this blog because of an interest in my posts on media, please follow me at my other two class blogs (linked above) as well as find me on my academic Twitter account and LinkedIn.

However, if you followed this blog because you know me, or you are interested in my more personal posts, please know that I have come to the conclusion that a personal blog is not for me. I much prefer the micro-blogging capabilities of Twitter and Facebook, which allow me to express myself without the effort of writing a multi-paragraph blog post each time I have a clever thought.

I suppose I ought to thank you now because that’s what you do to your followers. Thank you for clicking the follow button, for (maybe) reading the first paragraph or so of my posts, for being a number on my stats page that helped me feel good about myself. I hope to be better organized in the future when it comes to my online communication. I hope that you continue to follow the process of my growing online presence (because that doesn’t sound creepy at all). Have a wonderful minute, month, lifespan.

“Live or die, your wish compared” – a prophecy from a 4-year-old


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My family vacationed last week. It’s kind of an annual thing, our trip to Galveston Island. This year it was only my parents, my two younger sisters and myself. (My two older siblings are boring and married now.)

It rained the first two days and was cold the next three, so we had to get creative with our methods of entertainment. My parents, not prone to excess, decided against the much-hyped Moody Gardens or Pleasure Pier. Instead, we took daily scenic drives through the residential districts of the island.

These houses are simply gorgeous: two-story wooden beauties from the turn of the last century, painted and repainted and painted over again. Apparently the homeowners’ associations in Galveston spend all their resources on hunting down the next brightest color.

Frankly, I loved the homes. My favorites were the orange ones, of course, although one particular stone-and-mortar masterpiece caught my eye. It was a castle. Seriously. Round corner rooms with tops that towered above the neighboring chimneys; cast-iron gates of great magnificence; important stone steps leading up to important double doors. Pretty much my dream home from the rolling hills of Scotland transplanted right there in humid, cramped, touristy Galveston Island.

So of course I thought of a reason to like Galveston so that I could move my imagined future self into this castle. “I would love to live in a town small enough to bike everywhere,” I proclaimed to the minivan. “It would be perfect.”

And then my 4-year-old sister prophesied, right there in the car seat next to me. I wasn’t looking at her, but her voice was of the tone which would imply eyes rolling toward the back of her head. “Live or die, your wish compared,” she murmured low, then continued her prattle about pink houses.

She never talks like that, not the tone, not the words. Obviously, the only logical conclusion is that I am going to die someday in a cycling accident. But I’m not superstitious.

Advice from an 18-year-old college senior


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I finished my last final of the semester and now I’m a senior. I feel like seniors are supposed to be wiser than other college students, or somesuch nonsense. Considering that I’m the age of most high school seniors, maybe this doesn’t apply to me, but I might as well pretend. So here’s some friendly advice from a college senior who has never lived on campus, only taken a full load of classes for three semesters, and still refers to herself as kid:

  1. It’s okay to refer to yourself as a kid.
  2. It’s not okay to act like a kid at interviews.
  3. You’re not invincible. It hurts to jump 15 feet.
  4. There are more important debates in life than the Oxford comma.
  5. TV is great but sleep is greater.
  6. Exercise is great and so is pizza.
  7. Ice cream fixes everything.
  8. Books are better when you really read them.
  9. Coffee is actually addictive.
  10. YouTube will waste years of your life if you let it.
  11. Blogging every week isn’t as hard as it sounds. Seriously. Try it.
  12. Listen to a 4-year-old every now and then. They’re freaking geniuses.
  13. Don’t waste energy on jealousy. Instead, make yourself better.
  14. Goals and to-do lists have magical motivational powers.
  15. Family is really fantastic if you can make it work.
  16. It’s okay to go to school without makeup.
  17. It’s okay to let other people’s opinions change yours.
  18. It’s fun to pretend to give advice when you don’t know squat about life.

Weight Loss, Reading Lists and Writing: Goals for the month of May


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My last class of the semester was yesterday. I have two finals on Monday and Tuesday and then five and a half weeks of free time until my summer job begins. So here are a few goals I have:

  • Get fit!
    I know it’s time to start working out again when my numerical weight has maintained for the four months I was on crutches yet my percent body fat has visibly increased. Less muscle more fat is not okay. Unfortunately, my foot will not be recovered enough for me to get back into running until late July or August. Biking and swimming it is. My fitness goal is six 30-minute workouts a week, plus stretches and floor exercises every morning.
  • Read!
    I want to finish A Clockwork Orange and the Divergent series, and read The Fault in our Stars, the first Harry Potter book (I feel like I’m the only YA left in the world who hasn’t read the Harry Potter series), and maybe something classical that I didn’t get to read because I dropped out of high school Brit lit (long story).
  • Write!
    I wish I could say I’m going back on the page-a-day challenge, but I honestly don’t think I can write like that at this time in my life. I’ll try something a bit more modest: reach 30 pages of my current novel (which is nine pages, at the moment). Also if I could write some decent poetry this month, that’d be great. I’ve been in something of a poetry rut for months and months.

That’s about all I hope to accomplish in the next five weeks or so. I’d love to add recording to the list, but I’m trying to be realistic here. (It’s a challenge for me.) Besides, I can make that album when I’m fit.

Inside my head: What goes through the mind of someone with Asperger’s syndrome


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National Autism Awareness Month: The following piece is written by a dear friend of mine. He wishes to remain anonymous. Please take the time to read and learn that people with Asperger’s syndrome, though different, are not wrong or diseased.

Hello. My name is RJ, I’m a college student, and I have Asperger’s syndrome. My mother asked me to write about what goes through my head in order for her and my father to get to know me better. This writing is an account of what goes on inside my head so others can get a better picture of what it is like to be diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome to hopefully understand people like me better and to maybe prevent you the reader from automatically labeling people like me nerds, geeks, or outright weird and insensitive. I have no idea how long this account is going to be so buckle up.

So if you were to ask me how to describe Asperger’s syndrome I would tell you to picture a line, let’s say a jump rope. On one end you have normal people, and on the other end you have people with autism. In my opinion people with Asperger’s syndrome would be put right in the middle of that line. I feel like I experience both worlds but I’m not wholly in either one of them. For example I have a desire to meet people, have conversations, do things with friends, and to form relationships just like any other person. The only problem is that because of my Asperger’s syndrome I have a social impairment which makes it hard for me to relate to other people, communicate effectively, and have back and forth conversations. Asperger’s syndrome does have its perks though but I’ll get to that later.

“So how do you think?” you may ask, well I think in pictures. In order for me to understand or do something I have to be able to see what’s being told to me inside my head, and I have to understand how the thing you just told me works inside my mind. If I don’t have that mental image I have a really hard time understanding something told to me or accomplishing the task in front of me.

Sometimes my mind also does things by itself without me telling it to. For example say someone was giving me directions while I was driving and they said “turn in where the red truck is”. In this scenario my mind sort of focuses on the word red and my eyes automatically look for any vehicle that is red. Say I see a red SUV and not a red truck. My mind assumes the person meant to say SUV not truck and then I go park where the red SUV is. But as it turns out in this scenario there actually was a red truck, but I didn’t see it because my mind went with the first red thing it saw.

Another instance where my mind does things without me telling it to can also occur while driving. Sometimes someone will send me on an errand, but while I’m driving I will start to take a specific route to a separate destination. Whenever I drive back and forth between two places my mind keeps track of the route it’s taking and it saves the route in my memory. The effect of this is sometimes I will be driving and I will start going down that familiar route without being aware of it. Then at some point I’ll remember where I’m supposed to be going and do my best to get to the destination as quickly as possible.

Something else my mind is constantly doing is replaying clips from movies over and over again in my head. These movie clips aren’t just vague images. They are the exact same thing that was on the screen with every detail captured. Sometimes I think that if people could see which movie clip was playing though my head and then compare it side by side with the actual movie clip, they wouldn’t be able to tell a difference. My mind has always done this since I was a child, but it never stops. My mind is constantly cycling though movies. The movies can be anything from something I just watched yesterday on YouTube, to something I watched years ago.

This can be a problem at school because the movies playing through my head make it hard for me to concentrate on what the teacher is saying. Most people would tell me to stop thinking about them, but I can’t. My mind is constantly going at 90+ miles and hour and I don’t know how to make it stop. This makes it hard for me to concentrate on my schoolwork since I can’t give my full attention to what the teacher is saying.

There are something’s I like about Asperger’s syndrome. One of those things is attention to detail. A detail can be anything from a picture on a set of instructions to something you don’t see occur on a day to day basis. These things stand out to me in my mind but it’s hard to describe how they stand out in my mind. All I know is that they do and my mind is constantly looking for then without me telling it to.

My Asperger’s syndrome is also helpful when I’m putting something together that comes with a set of instructions. Whenever I am building something with my hands or on the computer and following a set of instructions I can look at each step in my mind see how it goes together piece by piece. But the more I work with whatever I am working on it’s like my eyes, hands, and mind merge together into a rhythm that lasts until whatever I’m working on is completed or I decide to do something else.

I can do the same thing when I am building something of my own design. When I make something that I made up I start with getting a mental image of what I want my end product to look like. Something I tell people is “if I can see it in my head, I can usually make it”. What I mean is that I can take the mental image of the thing I want to make and make it using whatever materials I have at my disposal, and the end result will look like the picture I made in my head.

My Asperger’s syndrome also allows me to see how things work in my mind. For an example I’ll use a 4 wheel drive remote control car to explain what I am talking about. A 4 wheel drive remote control car has a center driveshaft that turns two differential gears. The differential gears are hooked up to two axles each which turn the wheels, allowing the car to move. The drive shaft turns when a spur gear that’s connected to the shaft meshes with a pinion gear which is connected to the motor shaft. In my mind I can visualize the entire system working. If you were to see the system working on a computer screen, that’s how I see the system working in my mind.

But it doesn’t stop there. I can look at each part of the system, take it apart, see each and every individual piece, and then reassemble it. If you have seen the movie Iron Man 3 there is a scene where Tony Stark is investigating an explosion that severely injured his head of security. In the scene he uses a life size 3D hologram to recreate the scene. As Tony is working he uses hand motions to open or close holographic computer screens.

I can visualize things the same way. When I visualize something in this manner I sometimes use hand motions to help me manipulate the mental picture in my mind. This helps me get a better understanding of how the thing I am visualizing works.

So let’s talk about social situations. What sets people with Asperger’s syndrome and autism apart in a social interaction? Like most people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome I have a very narrowed set of interests and it is very hard for me to start conversations with other people because of this. When I try to talk to other people I try to ask them about their interests but every time that happens my mind goes blank and the question “what should I talk about/what should I ask them?” goes through my head but no answer comes to mind. It’s like an invisible barrier comes up in my mind and it is unbreakable no matter how hard I try to break it. My narrowed set of interests are like a box and it’s very hard for me to start conversations about things outside of that box. I think this is why I struggle with being able to put myself in other people’s shoes. When I try to do put myself in other peoples shoes the mental barrier comes up and my mind goes blank.

Another social interaction that is hard for people with Asperger’s syndrome is in a group setting. Personally it’s really hard for me to talk to people in a group unless I know the people in the group really well. When I don’t know the people in the group I usually talk very little, not at all or just leave the group and go do something else. I can take one on one with someone just fine so long as the other person keeps the conversation going.

It’s also very hard for me to see past certain things. The biggest thing I can’t see past is the pictures in my head. In order for me to understand something I have to be able to see the thing I’m trying to understand working inside my head. I think this is why it’s hard for me to form relationships because relationships don’t have a formula outside of be kind to others, put the other person first, etc…

This doesn’t just apply to relationships. This applies to every part of my life, whether that be solving math problems, trying to write a paper, making a movie, doing a project, understanding the Bible, putting something together, etc… If I can’t see the thing being told or taught to me working inside my head I don’t understand it.

Something else can’t see past is my logical thought process. Whenever I do something I always think “how can I get this task done quick and efficiently”. Once I have my mind set on a course of action it is very difficult for me to change my mind about how to best get the task done.

However one of the biggest problems for me in a social interaction is getting overstimulated. I’m sure over stimulus has its own definition, but from the perspective of someone who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome I define over stimulus as the brain taking in so much stuff that it doesn’t know how to process it all. I can get over stimulated when I’m in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by a bunch of people I don’t know. What happens is my brain starts taking in all the new sights and sounds and it tries to make sense of all of it. But there are times when there is too much to take in and my brain can’t make sense of what’s happening and it just spins out of control. When my brain spins out of control my mind starts over analyzing everything around me and turns the information into all kinds of different scenarios that usually involves someone trying to get me and I have to escape from them. Some traits I have when I get overstimulated is I find myself wanting to be by myself, I get extremely quiet, I get moody, and just want to start crying for no apparent reason.

This is what it is like inside my head. I hope this has helped you the reader better understand what Asperger’s syndrome is like. Now granted everyone who has been diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome has had their own set of experiences that are most likely different then mine. This is my experience with Asperger’s syndrome and I hope it helps you understand people like me better.

Beginnings: My Writer’s Bane Conquered


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About two weeks ago, I posted about my inability to begin stories well. I vowed to start (tomorrow) a habit of writing the first page of a different story every day. My habit lasted five days, and I couldn’t be more proud.

The page I wrote the first night was truly a beginning. According to the rules of my experiment, when I reached the end of the first paragraph on the second page, I stopped writing. The story, though promising, had no arc, no development, no resolution. Furthermore, the pacing indicated at least a novella in length, if not a novel. Luckily, the plot exploded in my head three days later; I now have enough material to finish this story to the length of a short novel if my luck holds out.

Then I discovered that my mind is an automatic story compressor. The next day my page-and-a-paragraph comprised a complete story, not a mere beginning. It was a nice little experimental piece of flash fiction written in the first person plural perspective. As might be expected, it contained the theme of group think and was therefore set in a meeting room in the corporate world. I titled it “The Brown Suit” and was rather pleased.

The next two days, both of my stories were only one paragraph long: one describing an eerie memory from when I was five and played with this boy which my mother swears never existed, and the other depicting a day in the life of a bulimic not-quite-thirty-year-old. I named them “Photo Prompt #1” and “The Old Maid” respectively.

The fifth day of my experiment, I wrote an eight line poem and vaguely formatted it as prose. I’m still not sure what it’s about, but it had quite a lot to do with rain and dreaming and took place “when the ferns had fallen in the fallow fields.”

On the sixth day I compiled the four completed pieces along with a few other scraps of writing I found laying about in my electronic maze of folders and gave the collection the title “A Disorderly Opus.” My creative writing teacher loved it. The majority of the class liked it. The document itself was more than twice as long as the first story which I submitted for workshop. My little jealousy problem dissipated like fog at noon.

(Tomorrow) I’m going to write more of the story which I began the first day of the experiment. My goal is to get about twenty pages completed in time for my third and final workshop. My experiment of starting a new daily habit lasted only five days, but it gave me the motivational kick my writer self needed to get going again.

Journalistic Social Justice: My Opinion Revised


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I am really tired right now. Last night I fell asleep with my overhead light on and it kept waking me up but not quite waking me up enough to actually get up and turn it off. My energy drink wore off hours ago. I did a lot of extra walking today which wears me out because I’m currently on crutches. I honestly wanted to go to bed hours early without completing all my homework assignments that are due tomorrow in media law & ethics. There’s no law against skipping school assignments. There’s not even a class policy that prohibits it. Sure, my grade would go down, but I wouldn’t be suspended or put on academic probation. It’s not like cheating or plagiarism. And my grade is pretty secure right now, so why should I bother doing the assignments at all?

I did the assignments because I respect my teacher, I respect the material we are learning, and I am trying to live the ethics of this class, not simply learn them. Just because there is no legal or policified (I’m allowed to make up words when I’m tired, right?) incentive to complete the assignments does not mean that I have a free ride. Even if I ignored the academic incentive of a grade.

Basically, I’m rethinking a lot of what I’ve opinionated about previously concerning the media’s obligation to social justice. I realized this evening, while writing one of the ethics assignments, that I hadn’t really considered the concept of social justice ethically, despite my treatment of the subject in an essay earlier this semester. Instead, I was applying my rather drastic opinion of laws and government on what should be an entirely ethical decision. And maybe that’s why I was wary to the idea of journalistic social justice.

All of this to say: I’m rethinking some things that I’ve said in class. Just because there is no law for journalists to cover stories that make a social difference in the world doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t go cover those stories. It’s what we’ve been learning all along, after all: We must make ethical decisions where the law doesn’t directly apply. I don’t know how I could have been so blind to this simple concept when writing about social justice earlier.

In fact, I’m feeling a bit humiliated. I’ve been doing a lot of rethinking the past few semesters of what I believe and how I think it should affect the way I live. One of the things I’ve come up with is a life motto: I want to live in such a way, and produce such creative expression, that people stop and think about life and meaning and humanity. How could I have possibly claimed such a mantra and then written disparaging words about journalists who choose to vie for social justice?

I am very tired, as I might have mentioned once or fifteen times. But I know that I don’t want to be just another journalist. I want to make a difference, whether by the way I ethically handle sticky situations, or by the way that I choose stories which will draw attention and hopefully assistance towards issues of justice and equality. I want to live free from the law, not in the sense that I break it, but that I don’t let the bare confines of the law define me.

Lighting Experiment


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Today I grabbed my littlest sister, a couple of lamps and a flashlight, a stool and a stack of books, and my mum’s digital camera, and took the following experimental shots. I apologize ahead of time for the poor framing: four-year-old children are incapable of standing still.


This photo was taken with only the regular overhead light: three bulbs encased in a decorative fixture. The amber tinting indicates the low intensity of the light, also known as a warm color temperature.


This shot demonstrates the basic lighting principle of key and fill lights. The key light, an unfiltered lamp with a medium color temperature, shines on the right side of the subject’s face; the fill light, a lamp covered with a sheet of white copy paper as a diffuser, shines on the subject’s left side. This can be seen by the increase of shadowing on the left side of her face.


This shot, taken with only the key light, demonstrates the sharp contrast, or fast falloff, between the light and shadow. The light is noticeably sharper here than in the next shot which follows.


In this fill light shot, the falloff is considerably slower, creating a softer image and a sweeter countenance. This is due to the paper acting as filter over the lamp.


To create this high temperature shot, the subject held a blueish flashlight under her chin, as one might do at a campfire when telling horror stories. This form of lighting is perceived as unsettling or creepy because when lighted from underneath the subject’s shadows fall oppositely to what the viewer would expect.


For this final shot I used the fill light in addition to the flashlight under the subject’s chin. The result is more illuminated overall, but still retains the creepy factor from the previous shot. Notice how the lighting makes her expression seem scared. Lighting similar to this is often used in horror movies to give the characters more frightened appearances.

Thus ends my dabbling in photography, at least for this week. Aside from reinforcing the lighting principles which I learned earlier in the semester, I discovered two truths from this experiment: Firstly, my sister is a model. Secondly, my laundry room makes a surprisingly decent makeshift studio: 20140329_165237

Beginnings: My Writer’s Bane


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So I’m taking this class, junior level, in creative writing. (I promise not all my posts will begin with “So I’m taking this class…”) And I’m developing a bit of jealousy because of it. I’ve always been a writer. I completed my first novel at age 11. (It was approximately 20 pages long.) I have more full spiral notebooks than most girls have empty tubes of mascara. I have always wanted to “be a writer when I grow up” and my perpetual switching between a degree in English and a degree in journalism has not affected this desire. But I have a problem: I can’t write beginnings.

It typically takes me about five or six hours to write a 2500 word paper. At least three of those hours are spent on the first page. I tend to write no less than 10 beginnings for a story before I get past the first paragraph. The only reason I have gotten to the second paragraph in writing this blog post already is because I started it with the stock phrase “So I’m taking this class…” Speaking of which, I was going to explain why my creative writing class has made me jealous.

The second day of class, the prof asked each of us if we were working on something. Everyone had something but me. Everyone submitted a collection of no less than three stories for their first workshop. I submitted a mere 7-page story I that I wrote in the 3 hours before class. It was fueled by sheer pressure, and this was evident in the darkness of the plot. I really need to stop procrastinating.

Part two of my jealousy is due to my 12-year-old sister. My mother has started a new creative writing program with her, designed to help her overcome her anxiety over writing assignments. Instead of working for a week on one long assignment, my sister draws a prompt out of an envelope every day and writes for 15 minutes. That’s all. No time for anxiety, no time for procrastination. Like my 7-page story, the sheer time limit forces the story right out of her.

I’m going to try something like this as a solution to my problem with beginnings. Starting tomorrow (like every true procrastinator would say) I am going to write the first page of a different story every day. It doesn’t matter what it’s about. It doesn’t matter if it’s well polished. The point of this challenge is to get past the dreaded beginning to the point at which I can write freely and happily. Who knows? Maybe some of the pages will be good and I can submit a fancy collection of stories for my next workshop. It’s time I measured up to my classmates.