Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hard Work: Validated .

Tonight in my email inbox I received an email from AUD.UCLA (that's the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at University of California Los Angeles). I didn't expect it in the least, but it was the first response from a graduate school -- and I got in! There is nothing that will make you feel better than some sort of validation for all the hours you spent writing essays, polishing your résumé, and nitpicking for weeks over your portfolio. It definitely made my night by far. One response down, four to go! It's nice knowing that worst case scenario, even if I don't get into any other school, I still have a place to go.

Monday, February 25, 2013

I'm Behind .

Well, according to my records I am seven days behind on posts on this blog. I usually don't let it get to this point, but I guess things lately have just been a little overwhelming. No doubt, I've been busy but I've been doing fun things too. Though sometimes I just want to do something mindless like play video games instead of putting thought and effort into a blog post. I guess after awhile it's easy to get burned out. To be perfectly honest, I'm surprised I haven't really taken any breaks in the 2+ years I've been writing this blog (save for my short hiatus during last semester). And though sometimes it may be difficult to sit down and write, I think having the stories will be invaluable as my age progresses. It will be a cool thing to not only have a record of, but to show my kids. How sweet would it be if your parents recorded all the things that were important to them in life, daily, and you got the chance to live their lives vicariously through their memories? Sounds pretty dope to me. So even though it may sometimes be difficult, here's to you, future kids.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Satisfyingly Muddy .

Today, despite the pouring rain of the morning hours, I decided to head out on a trail ride with a buddy. We knew it was going to be wet, but nothing could have prepared us for the rivers that were on the trails.

The thing about mountain biking is, the more mud you add, the more fun it is (save for, of course, the much larger potential for spills on the trails). If dry trails are a challenge, wet ones are more challenging. But rivers on the trails means every root is slippery, even just a normal turn will send you into a rear wheel skid, and if you don't sit back on the climbs, you'll be spinning your rear tire faster than you can clip out.

I liked the added challenge, and thankfully, once you were wet, you were yet. Once the bottom of your pants are soaking and you have that nice mud trail climbing up your back, it won't get any worse than that (provided you don't slide off the trail into the low-side lake at Issaqueena where we ride). At times it was a little too wet for me, and the mud was so crazy that I even had it in my face by the end. Who knew that the front wheel could kick up so much crap?

The one unfortunate thing I am learning is that if you want to keep your bike in top shape, that means cleaning it every time after you ride, especially after a super dirty ride like this morning. That means taking apart the brakes, wiping down the spokes and the rims, degreasing the chain and the cogs and gears, and making sure the forks are free of dirt and grime. I don't necessarily go to that extreme, and in some cases I am lacking some of the tools (like degreaser and a stiff brush to clean the gears) but those things will come in time and I have gotten in the habit of washing down my bike pretty good when I get home (and my shoes too).

Basically, if you don't mind getting a little dirty, mountain biking is a great sport to take up that keeps you in some serious shape. It'll kick your butt, literally, and murder your legs. But it's really fun too, and nothing can really beat flying through the woods pedaling as fast as you can while dodging trees and hopping rocks.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mechanics for Dummies .

Ever since I first started riding bikes, I've wanted to be able to work on them myself. It saves you a whole hell of a lot of money, and you learn a lot about your bike too! Ideally, you eventually get to the point where you can take your bike completely apart and put it back together (literally, one of my friends can do this). Now, I'm not really mechanically inclined (as much as I'd like to be) but decided to tackle something on my bike by myself this time. I bought the cables, and went ahead and replaced the ones that run to the derailleurs. Honestly, it wasn't really that bad... I'm feeling pretty proud of myself (sad as that may be). I plan on running new brake lines tomorrow. Maybe I'll get the hang of this after all...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Orion .

One of my favorite parts about winter is seeing the constellation Orion, and in particular Orion's belt. Oddly enough, it's only visible in the winter, and there's something cool about walking in the dark, seeing your breath, then looking up and seeing a warrior in the sky. To be perfectly honest, I don't really know anything about the stars other than that constellation (I can barely find the dippers..) but it is cool to think about astrology and that the stars happened to arrange themselves in a way that was conducive to some sort of drawing in the sky. Shall we call it... sky art? Cool stuff.

What are your thoughts on constellations and the stars?

Monday, February 18, 2013

If I Were Rich .

If I were rich, would I be a good person?
Would I share my wealth and good fortune or be consumed with gluttony?
Would I exude generosity and share all that I had, or leave my leftovers for those less fortunate?
Would I justify treating myself often, convincing myself that I needed this or that?
Would I trade in my Nissan for an Aston Martin, JC Penney suit for a designer one, and sneakers for high-end loafers?
Would I give more than I received, and have it in me to still hold tight to my values?
Or would I forget them, and let my heart be corrupted with selfish ways?
If I won the lottery, where would the money go?
Sure, pay off my student loans, and debt to my parents, and then put the rest away.
But for what -- to make more money? Is it planning ahead or being selfish?
Sometimes I envision an easier life without money. I understand why you cannot give a homeless man the world and expect him to learn what to do with it.
Because living without is easier than living with. Things are simpler.
Life is simpler.
You are not a subject of jealousy, you are not hated for your fortune.
If I became a billionaire, I could help so many in need.
Despite countless charitable donations, I would still have so much left over --
Does that make me a generous man? Or a stingy wealthy man?
Is it about percentage? After all, is a small donation coming from a large pool really self-sacrifice?
Where is the line? The line between poverty and suffering versus comfort and fortune?
When does pity turn to equality turn to jealousy?
Do we hate because we desire and covet?
Or are we frustrated with our lack of skill, education, luck, success?
If only we had that one chance, that one break, that one winning ticket.
Would we be changed for the better, or suffer having known what we could have been?
I fear my internal wiring would be rearranged, with delusions of grandeur and an obsession for status,
tearing me limb from limb, rotting me to the core until there is simply nothing left.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

See My Tears .

In a world of darkness, violence, killings and mass murders, gruesome death, war and a growing distaste for religion, values and morals, it's always a beautiful ray of sunshine when something inherently good crosses my path. That something comes in the form of rapper Machine Gun Kelly, commonly known as MGK. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, MGK is yet another that keeps it very real, and has an amazing ability to inspire people.

Exhibit A: Ryan Yex, a teen from Ohio born with cerebral palsy, who had never walked a single unassisted step in his life -- until now. A huge MGK fan, Ryan met his hero at a Blink-182 concert, and they hit it off. He promised Kelly that one day at one of his shows, he would walk. And he did. See for yourself:

For all those who think music doesn't make a difference, think again.
For all those who have lost hope, let this re-instill it.
For all those who lack inspiration, let this re-inspire you.
For all those who think they've got it rough, or have a big challenge ahead, or can't seem to find your way out of a hole, let this be a message that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
For all those who hate our generation, or hate rap, or hate this scene, let this be a lesson that there are amazing people out there, and their enthusiasm and charisma can lift anyone to extreme heights, to where they are walking on clouds.

For all those searching for the good in this scary world, you've found it.

Lace up.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Musical Taste .

While in the car driving to Raleigh, someone commented that all of my music was very chill. [Context: the drive is about 5 hours, and naturally with my addiction to music I played stuff on my iPod for pretty much the whole way there and back] It was nice to hear that, as I'm assuming that 'chill' is a good thing. I explained that well, it's not always chill but I felt that that sort of style would be the most agreeable among all the passengers of the van. I also put the fade entirely in the front of the car in case some people didn't want to listen to anything. I tried to be considerate and really not disturb anyone.

But getting back to the music. How weird is it that you can really like one thing and not like another? Some people really dig some songs, or particular styles, and others detest it. And yet in some ways I feel like we are like snowflakes -- no two of us are the same, and likes and dislikes are all about the characteristics that make us unique.

The other thing is that I really like playing stuff that people might not normally listen to. Even if they don't care, or they fall asleep in the car, or put in their own music, sometimes they ask who the artist is or the song and it's cool to hear that. I was really diggin' the soft stuff today, and at lunch I made a playlist, including: Electric President, Radical Face, Alexi Murdoch, Bon Iver, Paper Route, Iron & Wine and others. It was bliss, listening to that on the way home. Just soothing and relaxing. Made the giant snowstorm we went through that much easier for me as designated "soccer mom" of the van!

The Fable of Fat .

In my experience, the viewpoint of the rest of the world toward America is that we are all fat. While obesity is certainly a growing problem, unfortunately even among children, not everyone in America is fat. Much like stereotypes of other countries, America is not actually all obese people and streets paved with gold. While there is (or I guess, was) a good bit of opportunity here for success, unfortunately the real porkers are the ones who often get in the news, and not so much those who regularly stay fit and healthy.

Personally, I hate this image of being the "fat stupid American". There are things done that I personally feel are questionable within the government's foreign policy. And I feel like "we" as a country stick our nose into too many things. But those things aren't really up to me personally. If we're talking personally, I'm an exercise addict, I love cycling and mountain biking and running etc. etc.

And thus I stand by the point that this ideology of the fat American is but a fable. A fable of fat, if you will. But hey, that's just me.

America, pull your shit together. Let's become a healthy fit American!

Pitcha-Snappin' .

My friend Andrew recently let me borrow his super like Nikon camera for my trip to North Carolina. This shit is the real deal. You look through the lens to snap photos, not on a screen. You can adjust just about anything you can think up (though I just left the thing on Auto because I'm a noob and a half when it comes to that stuff) and the lens... oh my goodness the lens. You could be forever away, and zoom in on someone's face and see all the details! Wild. It makes me really want one...

But let's be real; when it comes to that, who honestly has a spare couple grand lying around for a camera? I like photography and I think I have a pretty good eye for good composition and taking the photographic opportunities when they present themselves. I suppose I'll just have to add it to the ever-growing wish list.

For those of you that have those super nice cameras, what is your position on them? (This is also kinda specifically directed at Sarah, because you just got yours recently.) Was all that money worth it? Do you find yourself taking more pictures than usual? Is it always fun and cool to learn new things? I'd consider spending the money, but would just want to make sure it was worth my while. After all, the thing sure does get awful heavy hanging around your neck all day.

Trips & Returning Home .

This weekend I was in Raleigh, NC with my studio section to visit a few museums up close and personal; we are doing a semester-long museum design project. Upon returning this evening, I took the rental van back to the on-campus Enterprise and walked back to my car in the cold, scarf wrapped tight, gloves on.

I realized two things on this walk; the first is that I really do love the cold: the way it bites and nips at you, the drastic change of from the frigid outside to when you get outside, the ability to see your breath in the air, the burning in your lungs when you take a deep breath. The other thing is that there is something great about trips and vacations (no matter how small) but there is something equally amazing about returning home.

Even more so, I realized that Clemson really can truly be called a home. It's one thing to routinely return to a place out of habit. But it's another entirely to not just go back there, but feel like you have returned. To a place of familiar surroundings, familiar people, and lots of memories. While I'm looking forward to the next step in life, there will always be a part of me in Clemson.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sunset Joyride .

In the general connotation of the word, a joyride is a negative thing. It usually means you've stolen a car, and whether you're planning on just enjoying the road and returning it or keeping it, it's against the law and certainly warrants arrest. But I look at it in a different context: the joyride; a ride of joy, happiness, contentment.

After the Ash Wednesday service tonight, upon driving my friend home, I headed home myself. Of late the sun has set before I get home; but tonight was the first time in quite some time I noticed that it was just yet still aloft for a fleeting moment. And you know those few minutes that occur between when the sun starts dipping below the horizon and disappears completely? The time when the sky turns bright pink and vibrant orange, sometimes even a robust red? I witnessed it in all its glory for the seven minutes or so I drove home. At a wonderful temperature of 60 degrees or so, the beautiful rich hues of color, a picturesque wall of clouds in the distance that created a blanket over a portion of the color, listening to soothing music, and it was nothing short of perfection. When I got home, I flipped out my phone and attempted to take a picture to share it with you all... but the moment was gone; I had missed capturing it. That, and my phone camera blows some serious chunks (only has 1MP for those of you who are tech-savvy).

Sometimes the fleeting moments are the best ones. And while there are countless times they are captured and immortalized, often it's a memory of perfection that beats a picture any day. Because at the end of all things, anyone can view a photograph say it's nice. But only you can look back on your memory, and smile at its warmth.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Holocene .

Walking across campus today, a rather drab day, and yet I was in high spirits. Today I chose Bon Iver to be my soundtrack for the day; and it couldn't have been better. While sprinkles of rain fell around me, the sweet sounds of Holocene rang into my ears, and it's something that just lifts your spirits. Music is something that can really change you and change your attitude. Keeping emotions in high spirits are certainly a good thing. And so on this day, I invite you to check out this sweet sound:

There is nothing on the planet that sounds like this. Enjoy, friends.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

First World Problems Aren't Problems

I was alerted to this video the other day via Twitter, and I have to say I didn't expect what I saw. If you're a Twitterite like me, you'll know that one of the popular things to add a hashtag to is "First World Problems". For those of you who don't know what this is, allow me to explain:

First world problems consist of "problems" that we have being a privileged first world country. Examples:

"My cable went out, what am I supposed to do with myself?"

"Starbucks is closed today; how will I ever make it through my day?!"

"Need to plug in my laptop... outlet is too far away"

"Why can't the fridge be next to the couch?"

And so on and so forth. Naturally, these things are utterly ridiculous complaints, and just emphasize the fact that our nation is spoiled by the daily things we enjoy.

But this video attacks 'first world problems' from a different angle. It's humbling, seeing children in a third world country talk about the so-called 'problems' that we endure. Endure is hardly the right word -- it's more like a complaint of something that is so trivial that it shouldn't be a problem at all. Being in a first world country, we should be thankful for a roof over our heads, clothes to last us weeks, multiple pairs of shoes, electricity, running water, plentiful bounties of food. Poverty-stricken Haitians pretty much puts it all perspective. We are ridiculous -- why complain about these things? The things that we take for granted every day in life are things that these children would die to have. It's good to get a reality check every once in awhile just to remind us of how lucky we are -- and how grateful we should be for all that we have.

Exercise Exhaustion .

I went out for a long mountain bike ride today with a buddy, and boy am I wiped. It just goes to show that if you don't keep up with things, you pretty much become a flabby tub (or at least feel like one). It was fun, but whenever I do something physical exerting like that (other than lifting) all I want to do is spend the rest of the day napping. Doing something cardio-related on my off days is something I've been wanting to do all semester, and haven't really had the time, or I guess in all honesty I just haven't made the time. Be it biking, running, spin class, or some other crazy thing I come up with, it's something I'd like to be an almost daily occurrence. Let's just say I can't wait for it to be light out later, and really have extra sunlight to use up with some exciting things at the end of the day.

Upcoming Revamp

I've been in a serious mood for blog renovation for quite some time now. For those of you who are regulars, you may have noticed that I changed the background. As far as the visual attributes, that's about as far as I'm going to go in terms of revamp. The standard blogger layout and templates are really easy to work with, and I don't need to dig through endless amounts of  HTML and CSS coding to change things (Interestingly enough I am actually doing that for my architecture blog, found here if you're interested).

That being said, I'm planning on adding a "Blogs I Love" section, a "Photography" section, editing and updating my About Me section and even adding in some specific label tags that will get people to various areas of my blog. It's been a long time since I've played with these things, and the thing about the Internet is that it is constantly evolving and changing, and we need to evolve and change with it.

Let me know if you guys have any suggestions for things you'd like to see!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Hierarchy of Needs .

When it comes to human satisfaction, one might say that Abraham Maslow is the expert. This Maslow is the one and only who designed the idea of a hierarchy of needs, from physiological at the bottom, then safety/security, love, esteem, and eventually, assuming all of those are taken care of, self-actualization. We talked about this in my marketing class recently and it dawned on me that people don't really ever reach that point of self-actualization. How many of us can honestly say that we're completely satisfied with our lives? Not many, I'd imagine. Do you feel healthy? Are you physically able to do all that you want to? Do you feel safe and secure, in your home and financially? Do you feel loved, and full of all the encouragement and friendship that you may need? Are you happy with yourself? Do you have full confidence and a strong sense of independence? If the answer is somehow amazingly "yes" to all of those questions... congratulations; you've reached self-actualization.

Additionally, I found it really interesting that such a thing plays such large part in marketing. While I would look at these things and view them as overall goals of my life and lifestyle, it never would have occurred to me that this is a popular model for marketers to try to understand what consumers want. Naturally, various companies with various products appeal to consumers and customers in a various ways, to various types of needs.

I've sort of adopted the idea of this hierarchy of needs, and challenged myself to see if I might actually be able to reach self-actualization. I think this might take years... but nevertheless, it's a great goal to have, for anyone.

Got a topic you want to hear about? Got questions or comments? Want to chat? Shoot me an email at asmallpieceofgodsplan(at) I look forward to hearing from you!

If you enjoyed this post, tweet it or share it, and check out some other ones below:

Quiet Time .

Have you ever considered how hard it is to hear the silence? With all of life's distractions, it's practically impossible. How very rare that we get an opportunity to have nothing going on around us, nothing vying for our attention, and no tasks that require our full focus. And yet the other night I had the opportunity to sit in pure silence. This is a rare occurrence for me; usually even when I have the opportunity, I have some sort of music playing. I pretty much listen to music during all parts of the day. But this time the silence was just what I needed. No distractions. No attention-grabbers. Though the silence is often hardest to hear about all the noise, it is also one of the things that can really calm a person's nerves, soothe anxiety and just relax us.

Why not take the time today to find the sound of silence? I guarantee it will be worth it.

Got a topic you want to hear about? Got questions or comments? Want to chat? Shoot me an email at asmallpieceofgodsplan(at) I look forward to hearing from you!

If you enjoyed this post, tweet it or share it, and check out some other ones below:

Earth Pics .

For those of you who are Twitter-inclined, I recently started following an account that has quickly become one of my favorites. It's called Earth Pics, and they post pictures from all around the world, and these photos are absolutely GORGEOUS. It makes me feel several things -- first, that this Earth is truly a work of art, and there are so many hidden treasures out there to be seen and experienced. More importantly, we really need to appreciate those magical time when we are just in the right place at the right time and catch something breathtaking, like a rainbow (or, a double rainbow, which I had the pleasure of seeing while in Ireland; picture posted below). I've begun to save the ones that I really fall in love with, and I'm planning on making a folder for use of background photos for my desktop. Sometimes we just need that extra little oomph of motivation, knowing that the world is a beautiful thing, especially when we're lucky enough to see it at work.

vvv Several pictures I took while in Glendalough, Ireland. If you look close, there are actually two rainbows!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Water Rising .

Of recent, the Clemson area has entered what we call, the "monsoon" season. This is the time when it rains pretty often, and when it rains, it pours endlessly all day. We're talking sheets of rain, gusts of wind, tornado watches, flooding, and all of those other fun things that come with crazy weather. However, there is a great benefit to all the rain and water. The lake in our backyard has risen considerably! As the winter progressed we became more worried about the fact that we might not have water left in our little corner of the lake when the warmer months arrived. But with all the rain recently, we will hopefully still have plenty of great times out on the boat, some opportunities to water ski and wakeboard, and all of that fun stuff. Here's to the rain! Cheers!

Policemen: Protectors of Peace or Abusers of Power?

In the political world, policemen are always revered as the saviors of society, the men and women who put their life on the line daily. But there is a whole other view to these people too. Seen as abusers of power, hundreds and thousands of people put up videos on Youtube of terrible crimes committed, men and women who use the badge as an excuse to break the law and abuse those who are law-abiding citizens. In my experience cops have always been more or less respectful and do not overstep their boundaries, and merely uphold their responsibilities to the community.

Trail Mix: Good Until It's Not .

My latest food addiction has been self-made trail mix. That's right, I don't buy the junk that companies make for you labeled "Trail Mix". I prefer to put in there what I want. Given my poor college kid status, it's a great way to keep yourself from going hungry. Last night I had some as a snack, and ended up not even being hungry for dinner. It's seriously like magic... and delicious!!

So what do I put in this magical delicacy? Simple. Loads of honey roasted peanuts (which, oddly enough have less fat that the dry roasted ones... I checked), then loads of M&M's, then loads of Craisins. You can use raisins if you want to, but I definitely prefer the cranberry kick. Another option that I've done before is gotten whole almonds to go in there. Overall, it's the perfect mix of sweet and salty.

The funny thing, though, is that when you start eating it, it's amazing; it's addictive and you just can't stop shoveling down your mouth. After a bit though, you start getting full.. and then each time you reach for a handful, it's just not good anymore and you have to stop.

Wait wait wait... a food that tells you when you're supposed to stop eating? Is it too good to be true? Maybe :) But I still love it!

The Wonder of Traveling .

Recently a Youtube ad popped up that captured my intrigue in the first 5 seconds (the general amount of time it takes before you're allowed to skip said ad). I don't know how it did it, but my attention was focused. Here's the video:

This video captures the whole idea behind exploration and travel experience. The music goes along well with it, and you can read the awe on the faces of the people, you can see their wonder and they magically transform into a child again, driven by curiosity and yearning for more. This is the sort of thing I love about traveling so much. Every new thing that you see, every picture perfect view that you remember, every person you meet, or food selection you try, holds this sort of extraordinary wonder. That kind of satisfaction seems almost unattainable sometimes, but in this moment you are traveling the globe, going from Norway to Russia and everything in between, you see the remnants of history, the beauty in all kinds of nature, the daily lives of locals and of course all the while you are spending the time with close friends or family while doing it.

This video makes me want to jump up out of my bed, hop on a plane to anywhere, and see what there is to see. So many go through their lives and don't get out of their own country, some not even out of their own state, to see the world. There are so many different cultures, languages, traditions; different types of architecture, traffic patterns, and beauty in all of it everywhere.

As the video says:
"Feel the majesty, embrace intriguing cultures, awaken your senses, discover new horizons, marvel at grand expressions, immerse your spirit, indulge your dreams; our world, your world."

How much more inspiration do you need? Get out there and explore!

Got a topic you want to hear about? Got questions or comments? Want to chat? Shoot me an email at asmallpieceofgodsplan(at) I look forward to hearing from you!

If you enjoyed this post, tweet it or share it, and check out some other ones below:

Waiters & Non-waiters .

I've talked about the topic of virginity and waiting until marriage before. In my experience it seems that while the rest of the teenage/young adult population galavants off into the sunset with their sexual exploits, I am one of the few that has chosen to wait. It's just a personal decision, and that's what I want to do with my life. While it certainly is an unpopular decision, I know a few others who share the same sentiment (or at least did at one point). Thankfully, I've been strong enough to stay true to my decision, and everyone I've dated that I have told that decision about has welcomed it despite their own beliefs. Well I happened to stumble upon this site called, and it instantly makes you realize just how many people there are that are actually waiting.

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