a (self) discovery

While I hoped to uncover some viable topics for consideration into the Capstone project through my browsing of the Library Research Guides, I instead found valuable information regarding the Espresso Book Machine (or EBM) we have in plain-view at the Ugli. An entire research guide is devoted to teaching us how we can (almost) instantly print a book for a very small fee! That means material in Open Source, materials with the permission of the copywriter holder, and your own writing!

Image courtesy of MLibrary.
Image courtesy of MLibrary.

I immediately started to think about 3-D printing and the printers on North Campus when learning about the EBM, and the ability to make something just appear in such a desirable form. Then I thought that I need to start writing a book or a story ASAP just so I can test it out. Everything a self-publisher wants to know about the process is up on the guide and ‘self-publishing’ tab. One thing that it makes a point of is to stress that the service doesn’t offer an ISBN number, but you can get one through contacting Bowker, the official ISBN provider or the U.S.

It’s likely that many students do not know about the EBM, along with many of the other amazing resources available to us on this campus. It was not until winter term of my sophomore year I learned I could check out video equipment, camera equipment, or laptops from the ISS Media Center for a short period of time.

I’m really excited I got to learn about this obscure resource for publishing on campus. While the rest of the Research Guides may not have been as useful to me, this worthwhile discovery was something I wanted to pass on to my fellow Minors.

mischief managed

All I could think about when publishing my ePortfolio was this iconic phrase from Harry Potter.

The long road through the Gateway course is finally over, and I couldn’t be more excited to publish my ePortfolio to the world. The experience of designing a website for me to showcase my work in the course was extremely rewarding. I learned a lot about being patient in the website building process as well as the revision process. As a visual person, Wix allowed me to layout everything exactly as I planned it with technical ease. I became such a pro at it that I ran a tutorial to the class so that my peers could make an educated decision on whether to use WordPress or Wix.

I hope that people take advantage of the comment box, static at the bottom of each page. I would really like to know how my readers experienced reading my portfolio, and of course, whether or not they enjoyed it.

As the last day of my junior year comes to a close, I am so happy I was able to put forth my best effort this school year. I accomplished my goal of no procrastination, producing quality work, and (I think) becoming a better writer. I can’t wait for Winter 2015 and the Capstone course, and will continue writing until that time comes. Until then, gateway mischief managed.

I beat 2048

2048
The Winning Board

Two weekends ago I came down with a high fever and was left unable to do anything school-related for an entire week. Fortunately for me, I had gotten done the bulk of my ePortfolio two weeks prior, and didn’t have much other work left to do going into the end of the semester. I was left to Netflix it up while chugging fluids and taking Motrin. I also made sure I made time to indulge in my favorite internet game since the Helicopter Game, 2048. This easy game of numbers has players frustrated the world over, and I was determined to learn every strategy I could to win the game. While not much of a gamer, this game got me hooked. The seemingly easy way to play by using your arrow keys to swipe in any directions and match-like numbers to create the next number up doubled was all the fun I could ask for in a simple online game. Soon, I found myself avoiding school work to see if I could beat my friends’ high scores or even beat the game.

After what I would guess was over 30 hours of play, I finally beat it last Wednesday. It was rather anticlimactic, and the game started out as any other game. I usually get to the 1024 tile in all my games, so when I found the chain that would win this one, I was in shock. I instantly Googled how many people had beat the game to see how elite I was. As of March 27, only about 500,000 games of 51 million had reached the 2048 tile, or one percent of games. The same article also informed me that the owner of the game hadn’t even beaten it yet. I found this hard to believe, but since this fact was on multiple other sites it had to be true.

I victoriously took the ceremonial screen shot of my winning board so that people would believe me and posted it to Facebook to be cemented on my timeline forever. Looking back on how excited I was last week by telling everyone in a 50-foot radius of my impossible accomplishment, I probably went overboard in my celebration. Also, I thought that by winning I would have no need to play it anymore because the hardest part had already been done. I was wrong. I still find myself playing it to see if I can win, again. Unfortunately for me, lightning rarely strikes twice, so I may just be wasting my time with going for a two-peat. Even so, I still love to see the tiles move so rapidly in an effort to reach the 2048 tile. Winning has allowed me to try out different strategies and see what works better. If eventually I do get sick of playing and not winning again, I don’t think I will have trouble stopping since I already have my winning screen shot to remind me of what I did at the end of one random game.

Don’t worry if you haven’t won yet. If a Minor in Writing could do it, you can too. And while this post doesn’t have anything to do with writing, I hope I’ve inspired you to take a numbers break for some mindless inspiration that this game brings to me, and maybe to you, too.

getting wix-y with it

site preview
The tentative top-half of my ePortfolio’s home page.

After presenting a Wix tutorial to the class on my ePortfolio, I feel pretty good about all the work I did last week to get me up to this point. Instead of procrastinating this assignment like I thought I would, I spent four hours last Thursday evening laying out as much as I could and then creating a useful Google Doc for everything else that needed to be written. It was my first time ever using Wix, and through experimenting with different plug-ins, widgets, and ways to present all of my work, have an ePortfolio I can really be proud of.

The coolest part for me about my “tech challenge” was that the class generally seemed to enjoy it and asked questions about how they could enhance/improve their own ePortfolios. While I didn’t have a pre-planned script to go off of, my impromptu tone allowed me to navigate through my portfolio and all of its pages through the eyes someone who has never seen it.

Now all that’s left is revision, revision, and more revision. As much as I love every written word on my portfolio now, I want to use the time until the due date to make sure everything is said in the most coherent and clear way possible. There are so many variations to choose from as far as how to present our work. Every decision must be made with extreme clarity and reason.

Overall, I think I accomplished my goal of using my choices to create a stylish, “final” product.

I’m looking forward to see my peers’ ePortfolios-in-progress soon. Hopefully my ePortfolio will give others inspiration to start theirs now and not the week before it due (or sooner). So much value is gained by starting a term project so early, including not panicking, creating quality work, and having the ability to go back and revise where necessary. The more we get done before the last day of class, the more we can help each other out through peer feedback and revisions.

Another component of my project that Shelley commented on that I need to be cautious of is the images I used that aren’t mind. I need to make sure they are fair use and not violating any copyright policies. I will go back and pray that the images I have up are fair use because I really like them a lot and they fit in with my vintage theme. Other than that hiccup, the other technical components of my ePortfolio are solid.

Content-wise, I also need to ensure that my annotated bibliographies are added to both the re-purposing and re-mediation pages. As this is a required component to the course I need to make sure I don’t forget to do it. I think the best way to represent them will be putting them at the end of the embedded documents so that users can just scroll down more and browse through them.

I’m super excited about having so much done already and look forward to really being done in a few short weeks.

if i had the time

By the Huron River
The Huron River is one of my most favorite–and peaceful–places on campus.

Too many things exist in this world that I want to see, do, and experience, and yet, I seem to never have the time. While having to listen to an episode of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour for my Syntax of Sports class, I couldn’t help but think about how I wanted to become a regular listener of the show, as well as sample many of the options on NPR’s site for podcast and others in the iTunes store or online. This caused me to spiral into a thinking storm about everything else I always want to do but can never get around to do them because life gets in the way. Our hours are tied up in school, work, clubs, and engaging with our family and friends. When we stumble upon free time, it usually goes towards catching up on sleep or de-stressing through whatever means necessary.

If I had the time, I would want to frolic in the Arb almost every day, or at least hold frequent picnics and runs in what I like to think as Ann Arbor’s forest. During warmer times, the Arb is a place free from air air pollution, the hustle and bustle of campus and generally, most people. The steps that lead into the Huron River is my favorite place to hang out within city limits. A close second is the meadow area, vast green open space where frisbees fly freely, kids act as kids, and the occasional lovers embrace each other under the shade of a large tree on a hot day. I spent many summer afternoons there last year tanning, reading, and feeling careless on my blanket I always carried around me. I also got used to taking power naps outside, something I never really embraced until last year either.

If I had the time, I would vary the places and topics in which I expanded my mind more. I’ve always wanted to spend an afternoon just reading a novel for pleasure in the Reading Room of the Law Library. I’ve also wanted to re-familiarize myself with the very particular rules of major sports so that when I watch them I know what’s going on at any given time and can speak intelligently about it. Also, I want to watch more sports documentaries and live of the great stories of our time. While I’ve watched over twenty of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, there’s so much more sports history to explore.

If I had the time, I would binge watch successful shows like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, which until today I have not seen a single minute of. Also, I would watch Academy Awards winners of years past and explore the stories of brilliant cinema throughout time. Then I would re-watch my ultimate favorites more, movies that can make me smile no matter how contrary I may be feeling otherwise.

If I had the time, I would practice activities where I lack good skills, like swimming. Swimming at the Bell Pool in the CCRB is something I do more when in the summer where scheduling an hour swim in my day won’t intrude on other obligations. As someone who only learned to swim when I was a freshman in high school, I still can’t do a regular freestyle stroke and opt for a modified side stroke to awkwardly flow through the water. It feels good and gets my heart pumping, even though it takes me about 50 minutes to swim a mile. I always wanted to swim properly, and would put forth the time required to reach that goal—if I had it.

If I had the time, I would also play the piano more and reignite the mastery I had with it when I played for six years in my youth. If I had the time, I would go on bike rides to nowhere more often, intentionally getting lost so that I may find my way back again and just enjoy the ride. I could go on and on about all the things I would do if I had the time. Hopefully these ideas and dreams can turn into stories of using my time how I’ve always wanted to use it. It’s just a matter of when that will be.

So, y’all, what would you do if you had the time?

 

the promise of growth

This semester, I have the privilege of being in two courses that are not into grading and are more into growing. The Minor in Writing gateway course is my first game-ified class that seeks to remove the stresses of grades and instead urges students to try a wide range of activities in the pursuit of being a better writer. My English 225 course on the Syntax of Sports also does not grade papers in the traditional sense. Rather we have a certain amount of writing tasks to do in numerous subcategories like “Gratitude” and “Conscientiousness” that will put us at an B, B+ or A- level. The syllabus is titled “Most Likely to Succeed,” off of Malcolm Gladwell’s article of the same name, and proposes a model that if you write every week and have the time to sit down with someone to talk about your writing in that same week, you will become a better writer. While Shelley employs a peer-to-peer interaction with her students, Mr. Barry has us refer to him by this name, and in the classroom and my interactions with him, I am Ms. Ring. I definitely prefer the elevated status received when referring to a teacher a little more formally, but the personable-ness of Shelley is also worth a lot, too. While the teaching styles of Shelley and Mr. Barry differ, their approach to giving their students access to their writing expertise and the high levels of enthusiasm they instill in their students is un-matchable to any of my previous English teachers.

At first, I was really scared of having not one, but two classes that threw away traditional grades in exchange for allowing students to develop as long as they put in the hard work. My Upper Level Writing Requirement to fulfill the Minor grades traditionally, a political science class on Latin American politics. It requires four short papers and one long paper that are weighted into our overall grade. While we are lectured and talk about the effectiveness of arguments and logic for the articles we read and our papers, this is my least favorite class to attend or do work in. It’s no so much that the subject is dull, but the rigid grading structure and general lack of peer editing really plummets my interest on a class and writing level. While political science is more difficult to write about than sports, I think the role of the course structure also solidifies my opinion on this issue.

The greatest strength of Writing 220 and my section of English 225 is that since our grades are dependent on the effort we put in, it allows us to be more proud of what we do with the models given to us. Many times this semester I have wanted to share my Syntax of Sports papers with my parents and friends because of how excited I am by how it turned out. Also, I am able to notice that even though writing came fairly easily to me before when I didn’t have a strong writing toolbox, I still write fluidly while employing the many stylistic writing techniques I have learned and adopted in these classes.

While I am on track for top grades in both classes, that grade will do little to represent how much more confident I feel as a writer after dancing through the hula hoops Shelley and Mr. Barry have put me through throughout the term. While in January I was still feeling out just how useful the game-ified and effort model would work, I can report now that these grading structures fully delivered on their promise of growth.

words and moving words

The more I’ve gotten into reading for pleasure online, the better I have realized my ideal type of work I prefer to interact with. I’ve always been a huge fan of long, informative articles on topics I admire such as Detroit sports, college culture and anything Michigan. If a writer attracts my attention in a topic of interest for the first 30 seconds it takes me to read their piece, I’m hooked.

With my discovery of booming centers of creativity like BuzzFeed, The Rsvlts, and The Daily Pregame (formerly known as College Town Life), I have become an avid reader of not only blocks of text pieces, but ones that incorporate impressive infographics, list and memes. I browse these sites for laughter, inspiration and occasionally to learn about something that I was uninformed of before. I look forward to updates and love going through the archives to stumble across articles I might have already read but wouldn’t mind reading again. It’s sites like these, with much user-generated content, that get me excited about writing and what you can do with it beyond the bounds of the English language.

As much as I enjoy these websites, I find myself being turned off from BuzzFeed video or the same material presented in video form. I was trying to figure out why I can go through Jimmy Tatro’s entire video library and not be bored, but resist watching a segment like two-minute 10 Scrumptious Facts About Your Favorite Cereal Brands or one of the other playful videos found on their site. I think this is because I can’t easily scroll through a video and get a sense if I want to “read” it fully or not, or even skim it. Short videos are meant to be watched all the way through, and with my busy schedule I’d rather spend 30 seconds skimming a BuzzFeed article than taking a full two minutes on a BuzzFeed video.

This article over video preference is somewhat topic specific though. If a video headline really caught my eye I wouldn’t hesitate to watch that. But with the wide range of videos on the net, I’d rather spend my time watching Ted Talks or ESPN’s 30 for 30 series or movies I’ve been dying to see but haven’t got around to or Netflix. Producers of culture and content are vying for our time, our screen time and intellectual time.

Even we are engaging in trying to get each other’s attention through flashy titles and strong writing that will get a reader through to the very end of our pieces. It’s a tricky thing, both muddling through a sea of content and producing content ourselves to be muddled through and plucked out as worthy of attention. Sometimes I feel as if even trying is a winless battle in a place where the top dogs leave little room for other mutts to emerge.

As we become more digitally saturated, I hope that I’ll eventually like to watch videos more often but until that time, I’ll take my learning traditionally, through text. Even though it’s old-fashioned, it feels more comfortable to me.

 

growth and me: an e-port plan

As I delve further into the Minor in Writing program I have become more comfortable in talking about my writing while in the process of writing. That being said, glancing over the e-portfolio prompt I have an overwhelming feeling of anxiety towards it. While gathering the elements required to construct a complete portfolio won’t be too difficult, the presentation and aura of the site will certainly prove to be challenging. Essentially, the e-portfolio is asking us to represent ourselves, our identity as writers in a digital space that can be accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Similar to my attitudes towards blogging to an audience of everyone, this e-portfolio puts those sentiments into a larger context.

As I browse the very specific questions asked of us on the prompt page, one draws to me particularly, “How do you want to present yourself as a writer?” I think on a subconscious level I am always aware of how I present myself and how I sound to others, that is someone who chooses her words wisely and likes to write. To explicitly answer this question by way of a portfolio will be a little more daunting. I want my portfolio to act as a springboard and parallel my writing style and personality. I want the reader to walk away with a sense of my writer’s identity through the materials I present to them.

This will be my second time constructing an e-portfolio, as I was required to do one for my Environmental Journalism class. We did a lot of metawriting on our sites but nothing to advanced as far as layout and theme. Like the minor portfolio, many components go into the overall product which enhances the experience of showcasing the work of the course.

This time around, I think starting early in my ideas will only be beneficial to me in the long run. Even this post is making me excited to play around with content and layout during spring break next week with all the free time I’ll be having by staying in the polar vortex. I know the words I put on the page are as equally as important as the layout. I want my site to be exciting and something that I won’t get bored of looking at or updating (similar to how I want to feel about my re-purposing and re-mediation projects).

Since I’ve decided to do a re-purposing piece that involves me talking about my relationship with drinking and how that has evolved since college has started, I want my guiding thesis for the site to be that of personal growth. The person I was in September 2011 (when I started college) might as well be a different person than who I am today. I want to take my readers on a journey through writing and exploring this growth theme. Perhaps too I could incorporate the subtheme of what’s involved in growth, like failures, triumphs, and learning, with sample pieces to illustrate them.

My exploration of this theme through my portfolio stems in part to my philosophy on life and education. I frequently ask myself, what is it I’m doing today that makes me get better, learn? My biggest error in life would be to go through not quenching my thirst for knowledge and desire for growth. Hopefully I can capture these feelings in my e-portfolio.

a personal tale

The re-purposing project has given me much anxiety to date because I am hesitant to commit to one work which will be receiving so much manipulation. Much of the writing I’ve done in the past does not warrant itself to such worthiness of being used as a re-purposing piece. That being said, I have narrowed down my choices to a few works for which I will be able to commit to passionately. I wanted to re-purpose a creative writing piece I wrote about a college freshman girl who blacks out one night even though she has no history of drinking and really couldn’t understand why it had to happen to her. I was inspired by the idea of what happens when we don’t remember and how we come to terms with that if we can’t piece it together or don’t have anyone to tell us what we do when blacked out.

To re-purpose, I wanted to turn this third-person story loosely based on my own personal experience into a personal narrative that actually recounts what happened and seeks to discover how and why I came to that point. It’s a fairly difficult topic for me to talk about, let alone write about, but I feel as though the topic warrants plenty of self-reflection and discovery that I can accomplish through my writing.

I am nervous to dig deep into the underlying causes of the two blackouts that have plagued my life so far. Some college students black out and thinking nothing of it, or do it so often they’ve become desensitized and don’t realize the gravity of their actions until something really bad happens. Was I a victim of college culture and circumstance or was college culture a victim of me? Both situations no one forced me to drink, I did it all on my own accord in an effort to loosen up. Both times I took it too far and both times could have easily been prevented if I chose to take myself more responsibly.

Through re-purposing this highly emotional piece, I wanted to be able to express how I’ve learned from those bad nights and am not afraid to talk about them. I’m not sure exactly which outside resources I will be using to contribute to the success of the piece. However, as far as a publication venue where my re-purposed piece could be useful for, I was thinking of a Viewpoint in the Michigan Daily, or another website which college students frequently visit.

I’m interested to see if I’ll be able to pull through this process of self-reflection to the end. Also, I am eager to hear of my peers’ and other reactions to my writing about it and choosing to disclose such personal and, really, traumatic information. I often write on the safe side of things but want to use this project as an opportunity to experiment writing with controversy, or at least on a topic that isn’t as rosy as I would hope. I’ll see where it takes me, and if in the original stages of the process I feel as though I can’t make it through to the re-mediation stage and endure countless edits, will be forced to reconsider a different topic.

 

the life of language

As an official twenty-something for over six months now, I have had plenty of people who I have been close to walk out on my life for any number of reasons, and have been guilty of the same affair myself. This is inevitable for us still deciding who the real diamonds in our life should be and who the knock-off rocks are we choose to discard. When a relationship begins to turn sour, I try to reminisce on better times where the status of our friendship seemed like it could never get to a breaking point. How did we talk to each other and at what frequency? At what level of comfort in language did we experience with each other? Perhaps we naturally grew apart and developed dissimilar interests, or had an incident that caused the friendship to implode. In the sphere of personal relationships, I believe language is a key often overlooked in determining our triumphs and failures.

The power of language to dictate the course of a relationship has been something I have always thought about, more so than my behavior. It’s what we say that determines how we want ourselves to be viewed to others. We can use it destroy enemies, praise our best friends, establish our passion for a lover. The receiver’s response and interpretation judge our character in return. Sometimes we claim that what we say or write would not have the power it eventually did (“I didn’t know what I said had hurt you”). Naturally, and sometimes deliberately, our words inflect a tone and a mood, both in speech and print, that establishes meaning and purpose for others.

As such, individuals who act as masters of the craft of language are able to use the effect of the words they use to carry out their desires, whatever those may entail. When I tell my friend that a guy I just met “has a way with words,” she can imply that he’s really good at telling people what they want to hear. Similarly if I’m able to convey how I feel over a text message by the way in which I structure my words to the recipient, they might consider me to have a likable personality and proceed to spend more time with me.

Language usage in personal relationships is a tricky network to navigate. It’s not just the language being used that matters but at what time and frequency and for whom. My main vendetta with this connection is when others abuse language to create elaborate lies or cover up their mistakes. That can be the most powerful form of language abuse, but even on a smaller scale, we often lie to each other all the time about our own personal states.

One of the most simple things you can ask somebody is, “what’s on your mind?” It’s so simple yet so intimidating, as the words suggest the person really wants to know what you’re thinking about at the very moment. Naturally responding to this question might not be an option if what you’re thinking about is deemed inappropriate, or something that the person wouldn’t want to hear. I sometimes create alternative ways to satisfy the question trying to seem genuine while really covering up thoughts that I reserve for me.

Even though I don’t always truly answer the question, at least I know my lie was not deliberate. Once again, I revert back to the language’s power to alter the course of our personal relationships. The words we choose create the world we see. We need to always keep this idea in the back of our mind as we navigate our lives and language’s role within them.