Monday, August 29, 2011

Pics of the Week (and mini-reflection on a rather cliché R. Frost poem)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

... I took the one less traveled by

The other day I spent five straight hours romping around and hiking/exploring just about everything within a three-mile radius of my grandfather's cabin and managed to snap a few photos along the way (the above photos included). I have been hiking the trails around here for my entire life, but this is the first time I just grabbed a machete and went up in the woods and walked around, trusting my sense of direction and general ability to not get lost without a path. After my little excursion I managed to locate one of the main paths, and I came up upon it right as it forks into two paths. Anyone who doesn't want to get lost goes left on this trail, but since I was feeling rather adventurous and had never taken the trail to the right, I decided to extend my exploration and follow wherever that trail would take me.

So here comes the Robert Frost poem part. First of all, read that poem very carefully. The half-hour lesson we all got in fourth grade was that the dude in the poem took the less traveled road and was better off- thus, little children, be free-thinking nonconformists and go change the world you can do it blah blah blah.

But- as I just said, read that poem carefully. The poetic voice mentions no positive outcome. His taking the less traveled road made "all the difference," but what kind of difference?
Here's the last stanza of that poem:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Ahh, with a sigh. Would he be sighing if it made a positive difference? Maybe he wishes he had just taken the easier road or been a conformist instead of facing a life of hardship.

Anyways, lets apply that to my little adventure. I say with a sigh that I ended up spending an additional two hours wandering around in the woods when, if I had taken the clearly easier path, I could have been already back at the cabin munchin' on leftover bratwurst. Made all the difference? Meh, not really. But it made me take a second look at that poem...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things That Annoy Me #5 - Twitter Used Incorrectly

I started using twitter during the beginning of this summer. I wasn't sure what exactly i was looking for -- I already had a facebook and who needs two social networking sites, right?

Well, that's the problem with half the twitter users out there. They use their twitter accounts the same way they use their facebook accounts.

Well, here's a news flash - ITS NOT FACEBOOK. It isn't a competition to gain followers, it shouldn't be used as a "status update" a la facebook, and you should not be chatting with your friends on it.

I get a lot of people who follow me and have their description set to "follow me back" or some moronic variation of it. For those of you who don't know, your twitter description is designed to allow you to give a short summary of yourself in 160 characters or less. Sorry, but "follow me back" is not a description of yourself. Well, sort of. When I see this, I immediately understand that this twitter user is a self-conscious looser who still looks at his/her social life from the standpoint of a second grader- who's "popular" and who's "an outcast" (Ah, second grade. Good times...) Even more annoying is when a user's tweets consist only of begging people to follow them. First of all, the only people able to see those tweets are your followers, and second, is that really the only thing you have to say? "Follow me?" Is your life that uninteresting? Well, if your life revolves around measuring your self-worth by the number of people following you I assume that the only interesting thing you have to say is "leaving my house for the first time in a few days- man the sun is bright. Caint wait to get back to my computer!!! #imaloser"

The rest of my twitter annoyances don't quite match up to the one above, but they are still annoying nonetheless:

1. Don't tell me what you are doing right now. I don't care that you "izz chillin wit da boyz." If it isn't something that you would actually share as an interesting topic in a conversation, then it should not appear on my timeline.

2. The amount of blue in your tweet should be minimal. And by blue I mean anything that appears in blue font, including mentions and hashtags. Example? Okay:

3. Don't tweet saying how busy you are, how many emails you have to check, or that you are having so much fun at (insert name of club or bar here). Why? Because if you are busy then you wouldn't be tweeting, how about you check those emails instead of wasting your time on twitter, and if you are having so much fun then why are you taking your time to tweet? By yourself? In that corner?
4. If you dont tweet at all or tweet every minute of the day, I unfollow you. Cuz both are just annoying.

Here's my little rule for twitter: the number of times you tweet per day should be less than or equal to the number of cups of water you drink. If you are doing interesting things, you get thirsty, so you drink more water. Conversely, I hope you drink at least some water every day, so tweet at least four or five times a day.

Well, that's all for today...

Top 50 Places I Want To Visit #48: Angel Falls, Venezuela

Perhaps the most well-recognized waterfall in the world, the 3,212 foot Angel Falls is nothing short of majestic. It's unparalleled height -- 90 times that of Niagara falls -- is almost supernatural. During the dry season, most of the water dissipates and becomes mist during the over half-mile plunge. Yeah. It's that tall.

The falls were known to the indigenous people of Venezuela as "Kerepakupai Vená," which means waterfall of the deepest place in... whatever language they spoke. Today Angel Falls gets its name from Jimmie Angel, a US aviator looking for gold atop the Auyan-tepui, the giant table-top mountain from which Angel Falls descends. Jimmie returned to the falls after flying over and landed atop the mountain. His plane, however, became stuck and after an 11-day descent to civilization, the falls were named in his honor.
Jimmie Angel's Plane:

The falls are the number one tourist attraction in Venezuela, but it isn't exactly easy to get to. It's located in the heart of Canaima National Park, an isolated jungle that can only be reached by flight. Once inside the park, indigenous guides take tourists by canoe to see the falls. Also, the only time that the falls can be reached is during the wet season - from June to December - because that is the only time of the year when the rivers are deep enough for the canoes.

And for extreme outdoorsmen, there are things to do other than stare with a dumb look on your face and a camera around your neck while smacking on gum and wiping the fog off your glasses with an ugly Hawaiian shirt (kinda got carried away with that image...)

How 'bout BASE jumping?

Now THAT looks like fun.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Veggie Project Internship

In one of my very first blog posts, I mentioned that I was interning with Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. I then neglected to go into much detail or follow up in another blog posts. My bad, yall.

I could sum up what it does in writing, but since anyone would rather watch a video than read my dumb blog, here's a video made by last years interns that explains the project (spoiler alert: I am not in this video. Sorry folks.)

This year's interns -- two college juniors, one college grad, a grad school student, and I, a punk high school grad with not much experience, -- helped add a number of new things to the project. For one, we had one less intern than the project had last year, but we increased our number of markets from six to eight. We also enhanced the project blog, drafted a really long and boring policies and procedures manual, and essentially kicked ass financially, cutting the budget by over 8,000 bucks and increasing revenue by 500 bucks compared to last year.

It was fun. I learned a lot. And the kids I worked with were totally awesome.

So... there you go. I guess.

Things That Annoy Me #4 - Starbucks Sizes

The other day I walked into a Starbucks and asked for a small, black coffee.

There were a number of things wrong with my statement. First of all, the sassy punk with more piercings than fingers that was behind the counter could barely retain a gasp within his disturbingly porous mouth. I could see the thought passing through his head and the heads of the rest of the skinny hipster cigarette-smoking patrons- "What? black coffee?" Going into Starbucks and not contaminating your five dollar cup of crappy coffee with foam, sprinkles, whipped cream, vanilla, mocha stuff, frappaccino crappacino liquid, lip piercing lubricant, and artificial cigarette flavor? Unheard of! Blasphemy!

When the attendant regained his composure and reprocessed my request - a small, black coffee - we came to issue number two. And the rest of the nicotine addicts in the room knew exactly what was coming next- "Do you mean a tall?" he (she?) manages to squeak out of one of the holes in his mouth.

A tall? What? "No." I say. "I want a small cup."

The scrawny cash register operator, hoping that I don't exhale too forcefully and blow him away, now looks a bit agitated. "One tall coffee" he says under his breath as he rings up my order.

I am aware that Starbucks uses dumb names for their sizes in order to attract self-acclaimed "intellectuals" who think that they are worldly for sipping out of a "Venti" instead of a "Large." But c'mon. Can't a guy who is confident enough in his own intelligence to not need some french word for his coffee not get away with using normal English?

Starbucks, you annoy me.

The Gap Year Guy

Monday, August 22, 2011

POW (pics of the week) #3

These are all pics I took today, actually (showing that I'm getting kind of lazy about taking pictures every day and selecting the week's best, but oh well. I'm on vacation.) The past couple of days have been pretty busy, so I didnt post anything, but now i'm back on more of a regular posting schedule.

My morning run:

Relaxing later in the day:

That rainbow sure took me by suprise. I was sitting on the front lawn and looked up and there it was. I went scrambling to find the camera, went down to the dock, and started snapping pictures. There are only so many pics you can take, however, before realizing that you are never going to be able to capture the entire beauty of the moment in a photo. Its one of those things that you have to see for yourself.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock

I meant to write about this two days ago, because 50 years ago this past Thursday, August 18th, 1969, was the day of Jimi Hendrix's performance at Woodstock. I've been always been a Jimi Hendrix fan, and I've sort of been looking for a reason to write a post about him. In my not-so-humble opinion, he is one of the greatest and most visionary guitarists of all time. His sound was so unique. And not just his sound, but the way he played -- he treated music itself as poetry, and he always had a purpose or message that he communicated, as in his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock:

This rendition has been misinterpreted, criticized, and straight up demonized by some, but in those cases they overlook what Jimi was trying to say. As a matter of fact, Jimi's version was directed toward those hippie-haters. The song was a critique- a commentary, even. Not an attack on American patriotism, but a reflection on it. Those who shake their heads and make the sign of the cross when they hear this version are part of the same problem that Jimi laments- those who are too blinded by over-patriotic zeal too see that this country, while unique in its ideals, still has/had serious problems.

I could go on and on about my opinions of American patriotism (perhaps more on this in a future post...), and I could write and write and write about Jimi and his opinions and what I think he stood for, but i'm tired right now, so i'll let Jimi speak for himself:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Things That Annoy Me #3 - Obscure Car Names

Yesterday, as I was hopping into my grandfather's car, I took notice of it's name- a Ford Explorer. Now, this is not necessarily an obscure name, but it made me think about names of cars and how some of them are obscure, random, or completely made up. That spurred me to do some research into car names (I have quite a bit of free time up here...), and I have come up with this small compilation of car names that, due to their complete obscurity and/or nonexistence in any language, annoy me.

#5: Chevrolet "luv"
Why is it spelled that way? That is not a word. Spell it "love." I like to think that they were in a hurry to get it out onto the market so they put some moron in charge of putting the name on it. And, it's a pickup truck. What kind of manlyman looking for a pickup to haul his whatever is going to buy a car named "luv?" Dumb. Just dumb.

#4: Oldsmobile Alero Alero is not a word. In any language. Who came up with this? Did someone show up to the company meeting and forget that they were supposed to come up with the name?
Boss Guy: "So Bob, what name have you picked out?"
Bob: "Ummmm.... Alero...?"

#3: Chevrolet Lebaron Is supposed to be a french name or something? I guess they were aiming for the more sophisticated consumers...

#2: Pontiac Aztek Again, misspelled. But wait... OH MY GOD IT IS SO UGLY! Forget about tailoring products to falling literacy rates - this is a downright eyesore regardless.

#5: Dodge Diplmat Hahaha what the hell? Actually, these cars were used as cop cars in a number of movies (and in real life I guess, but that's boring), including Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, The Blob, and is pretty much a main character itself in Beverly Hills Cop(which is an awesome movie). But still, really? Diplomat? As if driving it would make me more capable of settling disputes, or perhaps the car itself alleviates road-rage-instigated arguments. This definitely is the most obscure car name I have ever encountered.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finally... Lake Vermilion

View From the Dock. The Moon Rising Over Comet Island.

Here at last. The air smells like pine trees, the water slaps against the rocks, the sauna is heating up, and steak is marinating in the sink. Lake Vermilion. I have been coming up here for over a month every summer since I was born, but the boat ride from Grueben's Marina to our cabin never fails to take my breath away.

My great-great grandfather first came up here in 1913 and my family has been a part of this lake ever since. The lake itself stretches 40 miles across the heart of Minnesota's Arrowhead region and gets its name from the intense reddish glow that overtakes the sky when the sun sets.

I'd give a bit more of a background on the lake, but I don't really feel like doing much research.

Right now a sauna, a steak, a cigar, a drink, and a good night sleep beckon.

People Watching at Gate A-14

There's a lady in front of me nervously smunching on a hard-boiled egg held in her right hand. She thinks that everyone is watching her. Her hands move in quick yet unsure jerks as she now fishes in her bag and successfully locates a small piece of chocolate and subtly releases a sigh of relief, saving herself the embarrassment of everyone seeing her rustle rather franticly through her bag and not pull anything out of it. I hope the chocolate calms her down a bit.

There's an embarrassingly fat younger man with a thin goatee in a supersized green bay packers shirt napping loudly. He doesn't snore, but somehow I hear him sleep. I think he's just so big that he constantly emits sound waves. Or maybe its like a cat purr.

A red-nosed man with well-kept hair sits two seats away from napping fat guy and scans the room confidently. He wears a yellow oxford shirt that attempts to conceal his beer gut but fails, blue slacks, and penny loafers. He is incredibly proud of his blonde mustache, which sits thick and strong on his upper lip and seems to glare at the other passengers as intensely as he does. Everyone sitting at gate A14 knows that this man is in charge. What he is in charge of, however, is not quite clear.

The rest of the passengers slowly filter in, many looking rather confused (gate A14 is at the very end of the terminal), and although the screen above the check-in counter says "Duluth, MN," they cast sideways glances at the people next to them, seemingly suspicious that they know something that everyone else doesn't- that this is the wrong gate, or perhaps that the plane has already left, or maybe they know what the source of that foul odor is. Hmm....
When they see the confident blonde-mustache man, they relax. He knows what's going on. He knows the answers. It's all going to be okay, says his mustache.

Leaving Nashville...

I've made this trip more times than I can count on my fingers. Nashville, TN to Tower, MN. 18-hour drive or a flight that connects in Minneapolis and then a tiny little puddle-jumper from Minneapolis to Duluth. After Duluth is about another hour of driving. But as I sit here in the Minneapolis airport staring at an airplane smaller than some cars i've been in, I can't help but think that this time the trip is different.

This has been a week of goodbyes. Seeing high school friends before they leave for college, wrapping up my internship, and hugging my brothers and sister and parents before I leave for a couple months. It's gradually becoming clear to me that it's time to say goodbye to Nashville, as well. Sure, i'll be back in two short months, but it won't be the same as before. There will be no friday night football games, no impatiently waiting in the lunch line, no napping during study hall, and my friends won't be around to hang out with on the weekends. I'll watch my younger siblings and my parents bustle about, carrying on with business as usual, but I wont be a part of it. I'll be an observer. An outsider, even. Watching them scurry about in the little suburban Nashville world that I used to be a part of.

Will I miss it? Yeah, a little bit. But I don't necessarily want Nashville to always be home. I'm not sure if i really want anywhere to always be home. I don't want to feel that I have to come back anywhere or come and check up on anyone. My home will be wherever my family is, wherever my friends are, and wherever I want to roam.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fun, Random Internet Images


I now show up as the seventh result for "the gap year guy" searched on google. Woot! I've now had over 200 page visits since I started the blog (two weeks ago) and I have two followers- shoutout to Laura Lynn, whose also has a blog, called Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Kindness.

And the second follower is my mom. So thanks, ... mom.

Anyways, celebrate, GNARW, stay tuned for an annoying number of blog posts today (since i'm pretty pumped), and ask a certain Robert Pruitt what GNARW means.

And keep scrolling down for last night's blog post- #49 on my "Places I Want to Visit" list.

The Gap Year Guy

P.S. The exclamation in my title is justified. "Wohoo" is something you exclaim.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top 50 Places I Want To Visit #49: Uluru, Australia

This is one of those wow places. Completely unparalleled. Nothing like it. A kind of "what the hell is that?" place.

Well, I'll tell ya what it is. It's a giant hunk of sandstone that rises 1,142 feet and has a circumference of almost six miles. Essentially, its what remains of an ancient mountain range that slowly eroded over time. Why it remains isn't exactly known, but geologists hypothesize that its lack of jointing and parting surfaces and its generally homogenous composition allowed it to undergo little erosion.

The formation supports a wide array of flora and fauna, especially reptiles - there have been 73 different species of reptile recorded there. There are also a number of different bats and marsupials that live on and around the rock.

Around the base are a selection of different trees, including the Centralian Bloodwood, which has a blood-like sap that is used for medicinal purposes by the indigenous Anagu, the traditional landowners of Uluru.
A Bloodwood "bleeding."

I mentioned indigenous people. The Anagu originally had ownership of the formation, and for them it holds a certain spiritual significance. According to their beliefs, the world was once a featureless place and none of the places we know existed until creator "beings," in the forms of people, plants and animals, traveled widely across the land. Then, in a process of creation and destruction, they formed the landscape as we know it today. They believe that their land is still inhabited by the spirits of dozens of these ancestral creator beings which are referred to as Tjukuritja or Waparitja. Uluru, they believe, was formed during a creation period by two brothers who played in the mud, got covered in it, fought in some epic battle, and died next to each other, turning into Uluru.

There was somewhat of a clash between the Anagu and the original settlers of Australia. The rock was named Ayers Rock by the white dudes, but now, out of respect of the Anagu tradition, the rock holds two official names- Ayers Rock and Uluru. Some cultural tension still exists, especially with tourism now in the picture. There are a number of signs that ask tourists not to climb on the rock or take any pictures in order to respect its sacredness to the Anagu. Since it is not forbidden, however, many tourists still climb to the summit, where it can actually be quite windy. In fact, there have been 35 deaths as a result of recreational climbing there since such records have been kept.

Pretty cool, huh? Definitely something I plan to see in the not too distant future...

The Gap Year Guy

Monday, August 15, 2011

Things That Annoy Me #2 - Bathroom Graffiti

Dear Person Who Writes on Bathroom Walls,
Quick question(s)- do you bring a sharpie into the bathroom on purpose, or do you just realize that you have one in your pocket? Why do I need to know that you are here, or that Metallica rocks/sucks?

Confused Bathroom Occupant

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Top 50 Places I Want To Visit #50: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Since I made the mistake of starting this blog almost three months before my actual traveling starts, I'll make this list of the top 50 places I'd like to visit to fill the time between now and November 1st and also to whet the traveling appetite.

Coming in at number 50 is Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

A part of the Bolivian Altiplano, Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat. This looks like something from a completely different planet. Not only is it just plain cool by itself, but also for parts of the year, it gets covered with about an inch of briny water and becomes the largest, most awesome reflection pool in the world:

The flat is formed by years of layering of water and salt in what was a prehistoric lake. It's so flat that it is used to calibrate distance measurement devices in satellites - in all of its 4,086 square miles it only varies in altitude by less than a meter. Since it used to be a lake, there are some really cool "islands" spotting the surface.

These islands support all kinds of unique plants and animals, such as this Viscacha:

The flat itself is a major breeding grounds for flamingos:

There's also a really neat train graveyard left over from mineral distribution lines built by British engineers in the 19th century. The lines fell out of use partly because the local Aymara natives saw it as an intrusion on their lives and made serious efforts to shut down the operation, but mostly because of mineral depletion.

So where do you stay when you visit? Try one of these hotels made completely from blocks of salt:

Bottom line, this would be a sweet place to visit. Maybe as a part of a South America/Andes trip. Totally on my to do list.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Things That Annoy Me #1 - Incorrectly Used Punctuation

Why cant people use punctuation correctly? I've been plagued by this pet peeve for as long as I have known what punctuation is. Here are the top three most annoying punctuation common errors/misuses:

3. The exclamation mark. When should it be used? Well, as the name denotes, only when you have something to exclaim. And it should only be used once. I can't stand to see emails in which every sentence is ended with an exclamation mark. I can't help but visualize the sender of the email bursting with excitement as they exclaim every sentence that I read. Nor can I stand it when the number of exclamation marks exceeds one.

2. Quotation marks. It seems that makers of public signage feel the need to put emphasis on certain words by using quotation marks. However, it always ends up coming across as being sarcastic, sounding really dirty, or like they are winking at you as if to say "you know what I mean...". I always imagine someone making the bunny ears motion with their hands. When I see quotation marks used this way, I make pretty serious judgments about the intelligence of whoever wrote it.

An example of #3 and #2 used in a deadly, idiotic combination:

1. Apostrophe used for a plural. Every time I see this misusage, part of me dies.

Ugh. I'm going to have nightmares about those apostrophes...