2:20 PM

One Great Thing About Graduation

I've decided to update today with a look into what my life has been like the past week or so. Or yesterday, if you want an epitome of all my feelings, cares, and stresses over the hell that is my communications research project.

Let me start with a disclaimer: I like doing research. That's right, stone me now, but something about hitting the books, turning page after page, procrastinating every 1/5th of a second on Facebook, and complaining loudly about all of the work I SHOULD be doing while I sit for two hours in the cafeteria with people I barely know.

But the finished product is always fun - who doesn't like being pat on the head, with a "good job!" thrown in there like a Milkbone, the right to sound like the world's most front-running expert on the subject (at least to your friends and family who don't know any better) and a big, fatty stack of graded paper with that "A" on top.

It's a form of heaven, I'm telling you. So are the bragging rights that come with it. And when the topic is something you love - a.k.a. not the topic I'm working on now - then the research is even more enjoyable.

So why do I hate this research project? THIS GUY.

That's right, it's a group project. And I'm stuck with "that" guy who has managed to: 1) miss most of the classes for the semester, 2) miss almost every group meeting, 3) done zero hard work on the assignment.

Lucky for me, I have two other group members: Mr. Reliable and Mr. Mostly Reliable. Granted, I know that none of my group cares about the grade except me. I'm an over-achiever, a bit of a bat out of hell when it comes to group project work not being evenly distributed, and a perfectionist. (It doesn't help I have one semester left, in essence, and this grade counts!) But I digress...

What is my issue with Mr. Anchor? Why can't I just let a fellow senior slide? Here's four reasons why I'm within one badly timed remark of taking my pencil and committing crime ala Joker style.

1) The Literature Review (a.k.a. the long boring crap at the beginning of the paper that makes it seem like the researcher had some clue of what they were doing instead of going off an idea that "came to them" while on the toilet)

Picture this. You're staring down your research paper, six things in hand you want to talk about, and four group members. Ok, only three showed up (that's ok, but not really), but your sure the fourth had some good reason for not coming (he doesn't). If everyone takes one, then doubles up on another variable, surely you can BS your way through enough of this to sound convincing! So you dole out responsibilities then break to start researching and be done before the deadline of spring break, only two weeks away.

Spring break comes by, and you have enough information to turn in. If you don't, you've managed to finish it that night before you take off to get wasted at your grandmother's 87th birthday or sleep off that Red Bull overdose you're suffering from after that one night in the library (what happens on the second floor stays there). Bingo, you're done, and have it sent to your other reliable team member who offered to compile it. Everyone else is behind, but you're sure they'll catch up (at this point, you still have hope, how cute).

Then Spring Break ends, you come back, and the weeks scream by. You find yourself suddenly having to send e-mail after e-mail to the others. You're the one who has to put the survey together, nag about the literature review, and don't forget you have homework for your Birdwatching Class that involves memorizing all 129 species of duck and imitating their calls, as well as weaving a Navajo styled basket at the public pool.

It comes down to the last week before the thing is due. You saunter into the library thinking that perhaps your strongly worded e-mail (not sure how strong "please" is, but no one can say you're rude!) had an effect. There's Mr. Anchor himself! He has his laptop open - great, he has something!

"Oh, hey! Yeah, that lit review? Working on it now."

Your eye twitches (good think your skull's keeping it in). You look at his screen, and sure enough, he's on sentence one. Of variable one. You feel like this.

Fortunately, the school computers can't be taken off the desks for you to throw at Mr. Anchor's head... And don't worry, he WILL get it done! It will just be crap.

2) The Surveys (a.k.a. here, you can do my job!)
So you need 100 surveys filled out. You have four team members, and simple math says, calculating in possible errors in survey-taking (who forgets to fill out age? you'd be surprised at the number...), you dole out 30 required surveys for everyone to bring back, filled out.

Should be easy, right? You struggle through this part because you have enough friends to beg surveys from, and enough guts to bug random people in the library to fill-this-out-or-I'll-die!

At the computer lab, you start entering in the 75 questions, by hand, into the program, with help from another group member. Oh, look, there's Mr. Anchor. And he's handing out surveys...that were due today...he's on number six. Ok, maybe he can do it, you reason as you smash the living daylights out of the number pag (sorry button 5).

Sure enough, he pulls through! Angels sing, you're amazed! HE IS GOOD FOR SOMETHING! Hope floods your heart and you feel like Yoda would have if Luke had finished his training. As Mr. Anchor hands off the surveys, he says:

"Here, 35 filled out!"

And then he wanders off...leaving you with 35 more surveys, plus yours and your partner's, to fill out. Thanks, partner. Glad to know you don't have to do anything menial, like, oh, do data entry. That's what you're there for, right?...

3) The Crappy Job on Mini-Project (a.k.a. that's due tomorrow?)

So you didn't realize that there was a small presentation on some completely unrelated communications topic. It's one of those things that takes a simple event (e.g. drinking milk from a straw) and gives it some stupidly complicated and pretentious name for the sake of science (e.g. drinking milk from a straw = voluntary radicalization of aqueous solution displacement theory). Ok, you can do this. It's only two pages of reading. How hard can it be?

Oh, you're the only one with the book? And no one has any idea what theory it is? Awesome. Call the teacher; he doesn't know, and now he knows you're slacking. Which means you have to do a good job (how many video clips can you jam in?).

You marshal the forces, with help of the other two reliable members, and sit down to work on it the night before. Mr. Anchor is there, and you feel like with his extroverted nature, you have to do well!

Too bad he spends the entire time doing nothing. You don't even have any idea what he's doing. And even worse, he comes to class and reads his presentation (that you made) off of the Powerpoint. And we all know that's cardinal sin number one in Powerpoint land.

Even better, that handout you were required to have? He "made" it, but didn't bother doing anything to make it look nice except put it in Word. You were the one that had to download the brochure template, put a funny LOLcats like comic on the front, and make sure everyone's name is spelled correctly.

4) The Results/Discussion (a.k.a. describing what you actually did with all those numbers you plugged in)

You don't hate on people who miss class - at least, not a lot - as long as they get what's going on. But when the class is essentially a semester long research project, with high expectations, and based on a statistically program that has crawled out of the depths of college hell to make communication class life that much more intolerable, well, then, missing class means you'll miss crucial information. Like how to use that program. Or read the results. Or talk about the results.

By this time in the report, the week before the due date, you stomp into the library determined to get stuff done. Mr. Mostly Reliable won't be there, bu that's ok, Mr. Anchor and Mr. Reliable will be. You've got faith that Mr. Anchor will FINALLY be able to put in effort and help with the second largest part of the paper - talking about what the numbers mean (he won't).

You sit at the computer, open it up, and start typing out stuff with Mr. Reliable, trying to make up for the fact that you're 15 minutes late (oops). Forty-five minutes later, Mr. Anchor wanders in.

"Sorry I was late. I was eating/pooping/sleeping/flirting/streaking." You don't really care what the excuse is anymore.

"No problem, we're on the discussion section."

Silence and an uncomfortable feeling rises in your stomach. You're scared to look over. It's a horror movie, and you've just unwittingly released the kraken.

"Oh. Well, I have no idea how to read any of this." Vague gesture to the screen here, where six windows of data are open. "I'll just be here for moral support." As he opens up Facebook.

This is when you realize that Mr. Anchor has been absent from over half of the classes that TEACH you how to use this program and read the results, and he probably failed the test that was solely on this information.

You end this group meeting with a long sob session in your car to your mom on the phone, wondering why there can't be clones of you to fill in as your project members.

How do you get rid of Mr. Anchor? I have no idea. They disguise themselves as fun, gregarious individuals who have promises, marshmallows, and rainbows spew out of their mouth at the slightest chance of a job where they can rely on their slacking skills.

I can't wait for the end of the semester where I get to grade Mr. Anchor on his contribution to the report. I just need to figure out if I'm giving him a 2% or a 5%.

12:00 AM

Progression of Brilliance

I have a presentation due on Friday in which I am supposed to talk about Islamic opposition groups in Egypt over the past 10 years. After meticulously searching to find the best (free) Egypt-themed template I could find on the Internet, I have now settled down to write out the content. About an hour later, this is what I have:

I might be in trouble.

6:07 PM

If I Can Do It, So Can You!

Yesterday, I won an award for a presentation with a LOL cats comic in it. I love college.

4:19 PM

Lessons from Panic: The Honor's Project Edition

It’s true that I didn’t do a science project, like I thought I would be over four years ago, when I was still believing that I would go into pharmacy school after university. But I was part of that statistic that changed their major and went a completely different way, and now am presenting at the honor’s conference with what some would say is an art project instead. This art project, however, has been close to my heart for quite awhile, longer than the year it has taken to complete! I first heard the story of the individual who would inspire this project over four years ago, and it touched me even then. How to express it though? That’s where screenwriting came in.

In my last screenwriting class, taken in Hollywood -one of the more negatively viewed cities to the Christian world – I learned the craft of telling a story visually. We are visual people, after all. That is why the symbol of the cross encouraged Constantine to engage the battle that won him an empire, why the Eagle was displayed prominently on the Prussian flag, and why Walt Disney’s name is still associated with those simple round, black ears. People go to the movies these days and are impacted by the story, but perhaps more importantly, the visuals. Scenes from art become iconic – God reaching out to Adam for example! And movies are no difference. Learning to write in a way that will impact people takes time, some training, practice, and discipline. And I had to learn this by immersion. I threw myself into the daunting task of writing a full-length screenplay, and pushed through the despair, perfectionism, and joy to come out with knowledge of why writers exist: to inspire.

My journey has been one of a writer who has realized the power of strong images. I’ve learned how to piece together a story that makes sense in my head, and express it to others. I’ve learned how to take a story and make it clear to other people. But as I’ve learned all of these things, and so much more, I’ve learned that my job as a writer is to inspire. I honestly believe, after spending time in Hollywood, that stories inspire many of the people there because they yearn for a graced and good world. The lost want to be found; they want to have a reason to get up in the morning. And that’s why writing exists: it inspires people to face the ugly, and see the glimmer of hope. Just as Buechner sees the Gospel as tragedy, comedy, and fairytale, so can life be seen through the same lens. Movies allow us to literally SEE the dark, the funny, and most important of all, the ideal. Without people there to put the fairytale ending into stories, however, we may be left with just the dark, or just the funny, but with no hope or joy or lasting vision.

The discipline I have explored in the past year has let me practice putting my own ideal, my own fairytale into a story that would otherwise be just another war story. The story is sad, it is bittersweet, but it explores an idea that most of do not fully grasp, or are able to perfectly practice: forgiveness. My script has allowed me to examine the dark side of life, the tragedy of the bad choices we make; it has allowed me to laugh at the realization that despite the gloom, there is happiness out there that can be spread; and it has let me show that fairytales can indeed become reality, if we only accept the tragedy and comedy in life. Forgiveness is not a fairytale, as many of faith will tell you. But it often seems like it in the life and the cinema we see. We all need to be reminded that forgiveness, and mercy, and grace are not just things that happen to characters in book – they are part of a graced and good world, the ideal. Fairytales can happen to us, if we only continue to be reminded that they are, in fact, real.

I only hope that I can express the optimism of the ideal into others, through the visuals and words I write.

8:03 PM

Daylight Savings Time

I could write about how busy I've been or how I am now enrolled in a 7:30AM Precalculus class over the first half of summer just so I can take a SECOND math class the second half of summer to fulfill graduation requirements - but instead, I'll talk about daylight savings time. Mostly because the old man next to me on this somewhat-plush airport bench explained it wrong to the guy next to him.

Why do we still have daylight savings time? Just because everyone else has it doesn't mean it's a good idea. It's like the cliche example of the bridge and everyone else doing it. I've heard various rumors about which USA states do and don't observe DST, as I like to call it, and here's the verdict, thanks to the ever reliable answerbag.com:

Who Doesn't: Arizona, Eastern Indiana, Hawaii, and bunch of small islands that we probably shouldn't be occupying

Who Does: Everyone else, including the Navajo Nation (for those who don't live in the USA, yes, it's a nation, even if they don't really have any benefits)

So perhaps I'm in the minority when it comes to my opinion on DST, but still, why? What is the advantage of having one more hour of sun in the morning? I fail to see the advantage of having to remember when to set my clocks forward and back. So what if it's dark outside when I wake up? Unless that hour of extra sun is going to appear with a hot, sugary coffee beverage, drop-dead gorgeous cabana boy, and/or a purring and welcoming (and adorable) cat, that extra hour of sun isn't going to make 6AM-8AM seem anymore of a reasonable hour to wake up.

And what's up with it getting dark at 5PM in the winter? Winter is the ONLY time of year you can reliable go outside in the desert. I thus lose an hour of whatever it is I do after dark outside in the winter. Ok, I admit, I am usually sleeping or playing on the computer, but I hate having options denied me!

What is the solution for those who are die-hard DST fans (I see you, rural farming types in the middle of nowhere)? We can do an Alaskan and implant HUGE UV lights all around the fields where people work. If we use wind power, which is supposedly going to single-handedly save the world, we can be green about our energy use and help farmers get up in the morning. The rest of us can enjoy our hour of light at night and play shuffleboard or sharpen our sticks to lay out for the incoming zombie horde (don't deny it, the living dead are nigh!).

This is why we should all follow Arizona's lead. Sure, it takes some getting used to, being on Mountain Time in the winter and Pacific Standard Time in the summer, but if everyone just stops with this DST fascination, then Arizona can stop confusing older men on airport benches and remain on Pacific Standard Time. The world will thank us, or at least my relatives in Colorado and friends in California will! And Arizonans will be pleased because we won't have to keep missing our television shows around the DST change times.

Thus, DST is old fashioned and out of fashion. Let's get rid of it and actually stick with a time.