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Oct 30, 2011


Hello, one and all! As November looms before me, I face it with a goal never before attempted, at least not since I was in Brazil. The longest record of doing this particular goal was 24 months. This one month should not only be easy, but I'm certain it will benefit me in many ways.

Life is full of distractions nowadays. I got online Saturday to watch a YouTube video while I was eating my nachos, and next thing I know, I've gone from six meaningless and stupid YouTube videos to TVTropes.org (which is fun, but also time-consuming), to look at Facebook pictures of people I don't even know anymore. And an hour and a half has passed by, which I could have used to get my work done and earn money, or get homework done to take a load off later. Heck, I could have read a book, for crap's sake!

This kind of time-wasting is not healthy, and it annoyed me that it had snagged me so easily. They say idle hands are the devil's tools, and I don't want to work for that butthead! One of the most valuable things to us is, I think, self-control. If we don't have control over ourselves, it's like someone putting a ring in our nose and leading us around. Well, I don't know about you, but I don't want no ring in my nose. So my solution/exercise for my self control is...

The November Techno-Quaresma!
The rules I must abide by are as follows: 
1. No Facebook during the month of November.
I found a nifty program that can block any website you want, so this is one of the three websites I'm going to block this month. I'm also going to disable my text notifications. (My email notifications have long been disabled.) However, I will be able to post witty status updates via text. I just won't be able to see any comments on them.
 2. No YouTube during the month of November.
This site will be completely blocked on my laptop. If someone wants to show me something funny, they can show me. I just won't be allowed to access the site on my own computer. This rule alone will save me hours of collective time in one week, I'm sure.
 3. No TVTropes during the month of November.
I don't have that much of a problem with this site, but I'm going to block it anyway. As with all Wikis, one cool page has a link to 30 other cool pages, and... yeah. Pretty soon the day's over.
4. No bringing my laptop when I'm not going to use it.
I'm not sure how well I'll be able to keep this rule, but it's an important one. I used to pull out a book and read while I was waiting for class to start. Now I just pull out my laptop and.... push buttons on my laptop.
5. No computer games of any kind to be played on my laptop.
This includes creative games and map editors, which are probably worse for me than regular games. I will be able to play video games with my friends if that's the activity of the week or whatever. I consider gaming a social pastime when it's with friends. My goal is to ultimately eliminate gaming alone. This can get carried away and waste literally hours of time.
6. Thanksgiving Day is the only exception to above rules.
My wife is addressing a weakness of her own this month, namely eating sweets. She will not be allowed to eat any sweets in November, excepting this same rule, on Thanksgiving Day. Cuz punkin pie only comes once or twice a year, you know. And you know, family together and whatnot may bring some video games in to the picture.
Okay, so it's not literally a fast from technology. I still have homework to do on the computer, and movies (and of course this blog) are completely free game. It's more a fast from wasting time. Those social programs are literally chains that have been weighing down on me. I don't mean that to sound preachy in any way, but I admire those people who don't even have a Facebook profile, or who don't even play video games... who go outside and invent fun every day, or who are involved in organizations and clubs. In the course of this month, I hope to be able to:
  • Read at least a book or two
  • Take more time to be religious
  • Write or work on non-computer related projects
  • Get involved in something on campus... perhaps Capoeira, or a writer's workshop
  • Stay completely on top of my homework and job
  • More worthwhile jazz!
My secret hope is to eliminate these things entirely. Sure, Facebook can be something I look at maybe once a month or something, but free time is something precious now, and I shouldn't be a-wastin' it on things that don't matter.

Wish me luck. My month begins Tuesday, November 1, 2011, at 12:00 AM Mountain Standard Time. It will end temporarily Thanksgiving day at the same time and resume 24 hours afterward. It will officially end on December 1, 2011 at midnight. But I hope by then I'll have the self-control to extend it.

Oct 9, 2011

The Magic of Disney

My wife and I had the chance to go to Walt Disney World a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't gone since 9th Grade, and my wife Karen hadn't gone at all. Going to Disney World as an adult is a different experience than it is as a kid, but its grandeur and overall fun wasn't diminished. I daresay, in fact, it was enhanced now that I'm old enough to look at it in a deeper and more appreciative light.

I loved the different parks; we got to go to the four main ones—Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios—and each had a magnificent and artfully designed layout, with rides fitting the various Disney titles. I've loved Space Mountain since I was a kid. I could go on it over and over again. Fortunately for us, it was the perfect time of year for lines. School had just started for all the kids, and we got to go on all our favorite rides twice. In Space Mountain's case we went three times.

Each ride at Disney World is a masterpiece. From the queue line to the pre-ride storyline to the ride itself and even the cast members operating it, the moment you step on you feel like you've gone into a different world. On the Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios,  for example, the ride appears to be an immense, old-fashioned hotel. From outside you can see the hotel's neon sign, partially obscured by a charred lightning strike, and flickering ominously. The queue line on the outside is decorated around by overgrown hedges, and on the inside appears to be a snapshot into the lobby of a 1930's hotel lobby, wreathed in cobwebs. Before the ride is a brief synopsis of an accident that supposedly happened in the hotel years earlier that left the elevators damaged and dangerous, delivered by The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling through a television set seemingly powered by its own accord. The line continues into the dank boiler room of the hotel, where you board an old-fashioned elevator. The cast members are dressed in perfect 1930's bellhop costumes, and as you board the elevator they say something like "This elevator will take you up to your room... your bags will be up shortly. If you need anything, just scream."
The ride afterwards uses a masterful presentation of Pepper's Ghost images, sound effects and animatronics, and then of course is the intense dropping and bouncing of the elevator itself. After the ride, you exit through the gift shop, still keeping the "cobwebbed, ancient hotel" motif.

I was impressed with every ride I went on. Disney doesn't just make sure their rides are a top-notch experience. I was impressed at how clean the parks were; I found that the park staff (called "cast members") were for the most part agreeable and friendly, clean-cut, and professional in dress and appearance. I didn't see any with a beard or a tattoo. They made sure to appear approachable and helpful.

At the end of each day at a park, the park had a special presentation with fireworks and lights. They were all not only spectacular, but inspiring. They talked about the things that the Disney movies taught us as kids—that big things start with a tiny wish, that we're all human beings, and the power of our imagination. In the Magic Kingdom presentation, my wife started to get emotional and cry. She was embarassed about it, but I told her "Karen, look around you. There are grown men here with Mickey Mouse ears on." Everyone goes to Disney World because it makes you feel like a kid. Stepping into the park seems to erase any problems you had with hugging giant Disney characters you know are just costumes with strangers inside of them, or riding a ride based on a kids' movie.

I am certain that Walt Disney must be going to a good place in the Hereafter. His morals were posted around the park. "If you can dream it, you can do it," and "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. The Disney parks around the world are an example of what can be done with teamwork, imagination, and perseverance. All of these things combined beautifully to literally make a new world, and an experience that was, for my wife and me, a blissful escape from reality.