Thursday, February 18, 2016

My 365 Second Video Project and Why You Should Do It

For those of you who’ve never heard of the 365 second video project, let me explain. It involves taking a video every day of the year (starting on your birthday or New Year’s Day or Presidents Day or Australia Day…whatever day you want). Then you edit each daily video down to one second and put all of the one-second clips together and add music. The result is a moving scrapbook of your year.

Here is the video I made this past year:

Let me be the first to point out that this is not a good video. I used a really bad camera for most of it. The beats in the songs don’t match up with the video clip transitions. Many of the shots suffer from terrible lighting or a shaky hand. And half of the video clips are of mundane experiences that no one cares to see.

But I love this video. It makes me smile every time I watch it. It’s a video that was made for me, by me, and it is delightful.

I think everyone should make this video. It’s fun. It motivates you to do adventurous things because adventures look good on camera. It exercises your creativity muscles. And it makes your life look way more exciting than it actually is.

Best of all, at the end the year, you end up with LOTS of videos of your life. I cannot emphasize enough how awesome this is. The 365+ videos that I took will forever help me remember events that took place throughout an entire year of my life. Let me rephrase: I SAVED OVER 365 MOMENTS FROM DISAPPEARING INTO THE ABYSS OF TIME. It’s like I’m a superhero whose power is to guarantee nostalgia and happiness to myself in the future (which I admit is a pretty selfish superpower, but hey, I deserve happiness just as much as the citizens of Gotham or New York City).

Without this video project, there’s no way for me to remember studying outside my apartment with my roommate or playing Frisbee golf with my sister or picking up my brother from the airport. At least, there is no way for me to remember those things in detail. In fact, it’s impossible for me to remember anything in detail because thoughts and memories are fleeting. (Don’t get me started on my hatred of the ephemeral nature of my brain.) I wish I could remember a moment forever and recall exactly how it happened. But I can’t.

OR CAN I????

No, I can’t. Not even with a video. I’ll never be able to replicate exactly what I was feeling when an event took place.

But what I can do with a video is see a moment in time that for sure happened to me, and seeing that moment helps me remember some of how that moment felt. I have concrete evidence that something happened in my life, and this evidence ignites a flare of nostalgic emotion that only gets better with age.

So make a video this year! And guarantee some nostalgic flares of happiness for your future self!

I’m already taking videos for my next 365 second video. I’ll tell you what I plan to do differently this year, and maybe that will help you make your own.

  • Film more videos of people. The videos I took of friends and family are my favorite ones to watch and will mean the most to me later on in life. So, no matter how many people I annoy, I plan to film them more.
  • Find better lighting. Some of my videos from last year looked fine when I filmed them but showed up really dark on my computer, to the point where it’s difficult to tell what’s going on. I don’t like it. I’ll do better.
  • Take longer videos. Even though I only need one second for my project, I’ve found that I get a much better one-second clip when I leave my camera running longer than necessary. For example, I kept trying to film my friends acting “natural,” but the best parts of those videos weren’t when they were pretending to act natural but when they broke and laughed about how bad they were at acting natural. Or when they posed because they thought I was taking a picture. Or when they thought I was done filming and started actually acting normal. (Warning: Your friends will get annoyed with you if you do this project, especially if you keep yelling “JUST ACT NATURAL.” I have multiple videos of my friends giving me the finger, naturally.)
  • Don’t miss any days. I forgot to take a video at least 20 days during the past year. I made it up by taking extra videos later, which felt like cheating. So my goal is to not miss any days this time around! So far so good! (I’ll let you know when I inevitably fail.)
  • Be in more videos. In my last 365 second video project, I tried to keep all of the videos from my perspective, meaning I didn’t do selfies and I didn't let my friends film me. But it’s kind of fun to see myself in the few clips where I’m looking in a mirror or the last clip when I do a selfie with two of my friends. Therefore, I’m going to include myself in my current project.

I hope that was helpful, and I hope you seriously consider doing this project or something like it!

On an unrelated note, I graduated! Which is why I’m resurrecting my blog. (Hooray for free time!) Expect a blog post from me at least once a week.
But do not trust to hope.
It has forsaken these lands.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

On Being an Actual Person at NerdCon: Stories

A week ago, I went to my first convention/conference. (I’m still not sure which one it was…let’s go with conference. It sounds fancier.). It was NerdCon: Stories, and it was simply magnificent.

“I love stories because they let me out of this prison of myself.”
~ John Green

John Green talking about why stories matter on the second day of NerdCon

Now I’m supposed to explain to you what NerdCon: Stories is. This is a difficult task because NerdCon: Stories is brand new, and even the conference’s founder, Hank Green, has repeatedly said that he’s not even sure what NerdCon: Stories is. If I had to sum it up, I would call it a celebration and exploration of stories. We celebrated the stories that make us who we are and explored how they are created. Basically, if you are a human being, you would have loved this conference. Special guests included authors, podcasters, comedians, music performers, and more. (Throughout this post, I will insert random quotes that were said by NerdCon: Stories guests.)

”Do the thing. Don’t be discouraged ‘til you should be.”
~ Storm Dicostanzo

Storm Dicostanzo playing guitar between his microphone stands, John Scalzi (left) and  Paul Sabourin (right)

One of my least favorite feelings in the worlds is the feeling that comes with being in a large crowd. I hate losing my sense of self, my sense of identity, and being lumped together with a bunch of strangers who happen to be in the same place. How can I describe it? It’s the feeling you get when you are a tourist at a stupidly crowded tourist attraction. No one around you treats you like a person, not the other tourists and especially not the people who are not tourists (security guards, information desk workers, vendors, etc.). You are simply another hassle, another mindless sheep to be herded about, another tourist to be given the identical experience as everyone else. That feeling is the worst.

“We would stab a family member before being rude to a stranger.”
(About people in the Midwest)
~ Patrick Rothfuss

The "No Pressure: How to Keep Creating Once You've Technically Succeeded" panel
with Patrick Rothfuss, Tea Obreht, Dessa Darling, John Green, and Rainbow Rowell

At NerdCon: Stories, there were very few times when I felt that feeling of identity loss. Amazingly, this conference allowed me to remain myself, even though I spent the majority of my time in large crowds. This was due, in large part, to the caliber of the attendees. While waiting for different events, it was the easiest thing to have a conversation with the people around me. We were all nerds. We were all there to celebrate stories. Why not share some of our own nerdy stories while we waited? I met an elementary school teacher who had her entire class make puppets (she showed me pictures!). I met a college dropout who has written four books and had one published in July (congratulations!).  I met a college graduate who came all the way from Washington to see Patrick Rothfuss and didn’t understand why so many people were wearing shirts that had a mustachioed man’s face and the word “pizza” on them (don’t worry, I explained). My list could go on, and each person was kind enough to listen to my stories too. Perhaps this feeling of camaraderie and openness comes with most conferences, but I appreciated it all the same. The people around me saw me as a person, which was an unexpected gift.

“Be passionate. Be specific. Do the things you’re excited about.”
~ Stephanie Perkins

The "So How Do You Make Your Money?" panel
with Hank Green, Darin Ross, Storm Dicostanzo, and Stephanie Perkins

And it wasn’t just the attendees. The speakers at NerdCon: Stories made it abundantly clear what they thought about the audience. From the very beginning (when Hank Green told the attendees to ask the person next to them how they are doing before he even came onstage) to the very end (when the New York Neofuturists required lots of audience participation during their performance of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind) the people onstage treated the people offstage like people. Time and again they told us that our stories matter. Not only that our stories matter, but that our stories are just as valuable as theirs. The speakers and panelist at NerdCon: Stories were people that had gotten some kind of fame and/or fortune from the stories they told. Yet they didn’t act like their stories were better than ours. I was amazed during the panels to hear about how often these renowned storytellers faced rejection and failure. (They’re just like you and me!)

“That’s the nice thing about failure. You do it in complete darkness.”
~ Hank Green

Hank Green welcoming everyone to NerdCon: Stories on the first day

I really could go on and on about how much I enjoyed my time at NerdCon: Stories. It’s been a week since it ended, and I’m still basking in the glow of its awesomeness. It even motivated me to reopen my blog, which has been collecting virtual dust for nearly two years. But rather than going into explicit detail about every moment of enjoyment that occurred while I was there, I want to tell just one more story about being an actual person.

It was 10:35am on the first day at NerdCon: Stories. I finally found the signing room (which was one floor below the main level rather than one floor above). I got there just in time to discover that the 11:00am Patrick Rothfuss signing was full. This was a huge disappointment for me because it meant that I would have to miss the Nerdfighter Q&A with John and Hank Green at 12:30pm if I wanted to wait for the next Patrick Rothfuss signing. Reluctantly, I stood in line for the signing, angry that I would be missing the Q&A but happy that I would finally meet one of my favorite authors. Then the line started moving an hour before the second signing was supposed to begin. A volunteer informed the crowd that Patrick Rothfuss was skipping his break so that he could sign more books. I wouldn’t have to miss the Q&A after all! Filled with gratitude, I decided to make Patrick Rothfuss a quick present. I didn’t have much to give, so I folded up a dollar bill to look like a shirt and tie (because I know how to do that).  It wasn’t much, but it was heartfelt.

When it was my turn to get my books signed, I presented the esteemed author my simple gift and thanked him for going above and beyond to please his awaiting fans. Except I wasn’t that articulate. I love meeting authors, but I hate being a fan. I know that I’m just another book to sign, another face to smile at, another name to forget. I feel bad for being a hassle and try to leave without making their lives more difficult.  So I handed Patrick Rothfuss my little gift, mumbled a couple words of thanks, and gathered up my signed books. And what did he do after he received my $1 worth of thanks? He took a ring off of his thumb and GAVE IT TO ME. The ring says “Kvothe” on it (which is the name of the main character from his fantasy series). It is gold-plated bronze, worth $40, and looks like the One Ring to Rule Them All when I wear it around my neck.

I love it. And hate Patrick Rothfuss.

“What makes Roth fuss?”
~ Maureen Johnson

The "Is This A Kissing Book?: Writing Sex" panel
with Jacquelin Carey, Maureen Johnson, Stephanie Perkins, and Patrick Rothfuss

Okay, I don’t really hate him. But come ON! After all the happiness he has given me through his books, he couldn’t let me do ONE nice thing for him? ONE small thing to try and repay the debt of gratitude I owe him? He had to make my debt to him EVEN GREATER?! Patrick Rothfuss, you are too kind and I can’t do anything about it. Even though it upsets me, I’m so glad I have this ring and the story that goes with it. I’d like to thank Patrick Rothfuss for this unanticipated kindness and for treating me like a person when I least expected it. Like all of the people at NerdCon: Stories, he didn’t forget to be awesome.

On an unrelated note, there was a sunset in La Crosse, WI, last night and I saw it with my face.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Poem for the Tired

My Nightly Executioner

It is calling for my head, and
I think I must obey.
It will surely mean my demise
as I fall and know
no more.

I fought to escape its grasp
just this morning, yet here again
I must see its face, which can be
a terrifying comfort
to a mind seeking an end.

For there is a serenity in surrender
and a softness in defeat,
one that sounds too sweet
when heard by ears
that long for silence.

I will fall again tonight
to its gentle scythe,
as the fight is lost again
because darkness seems more soothing
than before.
the pillow shall have my head.


I wrote this poem when I was trying to stay awake and be productive but also really wanted to sleep. As I finally succumbed to my tiredness, I thought about how sleeping is like a temporary death that we willingly go to every night, making the pillow a kind of executioner. I also thought that since people enjoy sleeping but fear death it would be interesting to make sleep a sort of metaphor for death, creating a complex emotional reaction to it for someone who has to sleep every night. The result was this poem in which the speaker fears sleeping every day because it erases thought but also welcomes it because it offers peace.

If you want to make the poem a little less dark and serious, change the word "pillow" in the last line to "pillow pet." It made me giggle because I pictured something like this.

Killer Pillow Pet!

On an unrelated note, I'm a big Lord of the Rings fan. I'm also currently reading the book Water for Elephants. Therefore, I would not be opposed to someone writing a parody book called Water for Oliphaunts. I just wanted to put that out there...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Winter Adventure

Around this time last year, I was preparing to go on a trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota. The highest temperature during that trip was 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lowest temperature was -35 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the chilliness, it was a really amazing experience, and I wish I could have done it again this year. I got to go cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and dog sledding. I realized recently that I never posted anything about this awesome trip on my blog, so...

My friend cross country skiing 
When snowshoeing, do not try to write your name in the snow
because you might fall on the last letter...
Beautiful landscape
Dog sledding
Other people dog sledding
Where the dogs were kept (aka HEAVEN)
Puppy scratching himself
Puppy being cute
Saying goodbye!

On an unrelated note, I just finished rereading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green because I hadn't read it in a couple of years and my friends have been raving about it recently. I remember really liking it the first time I read it, but I don't remember loving it, which I should have. I was able to appreciate the humor, symbolism, and themes better upon my second reading, so I'm glad that I revisited this novel. It made me laugh and cry and contemplate the complexities of life in new ways. It's a pretty quick book to read, and I would recommend it for anyone who is a person and is wanting to read a book. (I apologize for excluding animals who want to read a book, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Resolving to Make Better Resolutions

This is the fifth day of the New Year, which means that 53% of the American population has broken at least one New Year's resolution already. I, for example, just broke my resolution to stop making up fake statistics. I think many people struggle with maintaining New Year's resolutions, not necessarily because they are weak or lack commitment, but because they set themselves up for failure. The types of resolutions that people give themselves are often too drastic, unrealistic, or ambiguous. Instead of giving a lecture about how goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely... Wow, I guess I did learn something in health class), I'd rather just give some brief examples of different types of resolutions.

Bad Resolutions:
(resolutions that are unrealistic and easily broken)
- Eat healthy (too vague)
- Exercise everyday (too impractical)
- Lose weight (too vague)
- Read 50 books (I only made it to 23...)
- Cure cancer (start with the common cold)
- Become president (aim lower, like vice president)
- Train squirrels to fight crime (because obviously this would take more than a year)

Good Resolutions:
(resolutions that are realistic, doable, and may improve your life)
- Workout 3-5 times a week (if you're into that kind of thing)
- Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal (I hear those are good for you)
- Drink less soda (try only having one per week)
- Write a letter to a friend once a month (everybody likes getting letters!)
- Read a new book (hopefully more than one, but start with one)
- Tell someone that you love them (preferably not a complete stranger)

Guaranteed Resolutions:
(resolutions that have a ridiculously high success rate)
- Walk a mile over the course of the whole year
- Do not rob a bank
- Do not sleep while performing brain surgery
- Breathe
- See a bird
- Say the word "kerfuffle" (wasn't that fun?)
- Do not tackle a rhinoceros

On an unrelated note, this is what Wisconsin winter looks like.

Before lots of snow
After lots of snow

Needless to say, we had a white Christmas.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Why I Suck at Blogging

Happy Anniversary! It has officially been one year since I started this blog, and I only have five posts to show for it. This deserves some explanation.

Firstly, college. Anything that doesn't have a due date and isn't graded will not get done, like blog posts.

Second, I have too high of expectations for myself. At the same time that I'm not trying hard enough at this, I'm also trying too hard. I dismiss every idea that I have for a blog post because it's not good enough for me.

Third, and possibly most important, I procrastinate. Blog posts are something that can always be done later, and "later" never turns into "now."

Luckily, all of these problems have a common solution: create a due date. A consistant due date will make me put blogging on my To Do list and will force me to lower my expectations for each post since I can just try to do better for the next due date. So henceforth, I must post something on my blog every week before Sunday at midnight. (This will become once every two weeks after winter break is over and I'm back at college.) Sound good?

This kind of sounds like a New Year's resolution, which reminds me of the resolution I made last year to read 50 books in one year. Right now I am on book number 23... In my defense, four of those books were from the Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones). At about 1,000 pages each, those books are quite a feat (I'll have to post something about my conflicted feelings toward that series sometime). Also, 50 books was a rediculous goal to give myself in the first place. I'll do better this year, with both reading and blogging.

On an unrelated note, what do you get when you combine a joke with a rhetorical question?

Friday, June 21, 2013

What Not to Name Your Steamboat

During my first year of college, I worked at our school library’s Special Collections and Area Research Center, where we specialize in (you guessed it) steamboats. Our steamboat collection “consists of over 40,000 photographic images of steamboats on the inland waterways of the United States, primarily the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri rivers and their tributaries.” 

More than a few times my job required me to pick through these stacks of old steamboat photographs to see if we had a particular shot of a particular steamboat in a particular place, which is even less interesting than it sounds, I assure you. However, my exploits into the world of steamboats did alert me to a pressing problem: people are very unoriginal in the naming of their steamboats. This creates more work for me because if there are five different steamboats named Queen, then I have to go through five times as many folders to find the right photograph. 

Therefore, I have decided to make a list of overused steamboat names so that future steamboats can be spared the ignominy of having a repeated name. You’re welcome, steamboats.

What Not to Name Your Steamboat:  
(These examples are names of actual steamboats.)
  •   Anything with “Queen” in it
-          Queen
-          Island Queen
-          Queen of the Mississippi
-          Queen City
-           American Queen
  •   Anything with the Name of a City in it
-          Cincinnati
-          City of Parkersburg
-          City of Owensboro
-          City of Alma
-          City of Alton
-          City of Baton Rouge
  •   Anything with “Belle” in it
-          Belle of the Bends
-          Belle of the Coast
-          Belle Vernon
-          Bayou Belle
-          Belle Creole
-          Belle of La Crosse
-          Exception: Belle of the Golden West (because Jacky Faber is an exception to everything)
  •   The Name of a State
-          Wyoming
-          Indiana
-          Alabama
-          Alaska
-          California
-          Colorado
  •   A Girl’s Name
-          Susan
-          Anna Lee
-          Sarah Edenborn
-          Elsa Marie
-          Betty Jean
-          Grace Devers
-          Elizabeth

Awesome Steamboat Names:
(These examples are completely made up.)
  •   The Name of Your Favorite Lord of the Rings Character
-          Samwise the Brave
-          Gandalf the White
-          Peregrin Took
-          Lady Galadriel
-          Legolas Greenleaf
  •   Any Spell from Harry Potter
-          Alohomora
-          Diffindo
-          Expecto Patronum
-          Riddikulus
-          Wingardium Leviosa
  •   Any Color plus Any Mythical Creature
-          The Violet Phoenix
-          The Silver Centaur
-          The Amber Nymph
-          The Puce Gargoyle
-          The Lavender Leprechaun
  •   Awesome Alliterations
-          Dangerous Dave’s Dinghy
-          Ray’s Rusty Rig
-          The Beastly Barge
-          Vanity Vessel
-          The Courageous Craft
  •   Names in Foreign Languages
-          Don Quixote (famous Spanish book)
-          Amore (Italian for “love”)
-          Kuroshitsuji (Japanese for “Black Butler,” good manga)
-          Monsieur (that’s all the French I’ve got)
-          Wienerschnitzel (German deliciousness)

I hope this post has assisted all of the people who I know are struggling with the naming of their steamboats. I wish you luck. Please don’t take too many pictures.

On an unrelated note, I have only read ten books so far this year, which means that I must admit an early defeat in my goal of reading fifty. I still have hope for reading thirty-five books though, since the summer is young and that’s when I read the most. With busy friends and not enough hours at work, I should have plenty of time to read and (hopefully) to blog. No promises!

PS - I wanted to include a couple steamboat photos in this post, but I’m not allowed to do that because the images “cannot be copied or reproduced without the permission of the University.” Instead, please enjoy this picture of an alligator with a turtle on its head that I saw in Florida.