The Future is Here: Audiobooks

My mom thinks it’s because I am lazy.

I, of course, do not agree with that statement.

I think it’s because I am creative, intelligent, sophisticated–

My mom disagrees.

Either way, I started listening to audiobooks.

Having a great love for books, I am the type of guy who will sit in a chair and binge-read. I have been known to read eight hours straight, and not even realize how much time has passed.

Being a college student with a part-time job and family responsibilities, I have precious little time to do anything other than study and work, which is extremely depressing for someone like me. I don’t have the time to dedicate a day to reading Game of Thrones or The Stand.

Audiobooks help solve this problem.

Earbuds and a book—the secret to happiness.

A post shared by Metro Student (@wh6778pw) on

I spend countless hours in my car waiting–waiting for traffic to move, waiting for the lights to change color, waiting for pedestrians to cross the street.

With audiobooks, I can wait while listening to a book.

My first audiobook was “Paradox Bound” a interesting story about villains who are missing eyes and lips, and time travel. One of my biggest fears with audiobooks was that the narrator would be some monotone robot just reading words off a page.

Nothing is further from reality.

The narrator is energetic, emotional, and changes his voice inflections to match those of the characters in the book.

My adventure with audiobooks has caused my to think more broadly about myself, specifically how the fear of change affects me.

Change is such an interesting phenomenon. From a very early age in our lives, routine begins to build around us. The clearest example of this is school. At five-years-old, before we even truly realize what time is, we are bound by strict routines: 12:00 p.m.-lunch, 1:00 p.m.-recess, 1:30 p.m.-music, etc.. Do these boundaries help create character?

I would have begun using audiobooks a lot earlier, but the fear of change held me back.

If humans didn’t have the fear of change to deal with, how would this world be different? Would life be better or worse? Would we be happy or depressed?

If we weren’t afraid to break from tradition, how would that affect society?

Of course, I don’t have the answers, but I pose the question for you to think about.

Either way, I strongly recommend that you give audiobooks a try.

#BlogType6

 

 

Advertisements

Living Minimally: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle

There are plenty of places to start when it comes to becoming a minimalist and beginning the process isn’t hard, some people jump in feet first; others like myself like to wade in slowly. I began my minimal life journey with this blog. I started going through my things starting with clothes (my greatest weakness…) Anything that didn’t make me happy or feel great wearing it I passed on to my niece or donation. Then I moved on to my crafts supplies (my next biggest weakness), things that were expired or unused & old were tossed or donated depending on condition.reduce

I tried not to add to the worlds landfills but unfortunately that isn’t always possible. Things I could re-purpose or reuse were kept around to be used again. I cut old t shirts into cleaning rags and cut jeans and braided into a couple toys for my pup. I avoid foods that come in packages that can’t be recycled and have started purchasing more bulk foods. When I was pairing down I tried to sell things I no longer had a place for like the antique dresser I found on the side of the road last summer and refurbished. It didn’t fit in my home but it did fit in someone else’s and brought them joy.

 

More money saving, green living tips

In keeping with my theme of the environment and my earlier blog with tips to save money and the Earth. I thought I’d share another low-cost tip for living green.

I recently came across a really cool new cleaning product. Except that it isn’t new, and it’s not exactly a product, but there are products made from it and you can buy it?

This is starting to sound like a riddle, so I’ll get to the point. SOAP NUTS!!

What is a soap nut?

Soap Nuts, which are actually berries, grow on trees and have actual soap in them!

soapberrytree
Soapberry Tree

The berries contain saponin, which functions as a surfactant a.k.a. soap. They work to release dirt from fabric and other surfaces, then suspend the dirt in the water to be rinsed away. Some species of soap nut have also been found to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.

Soap nuts have been in use for literal ages, in the subtropic Asia, in countries such as India, China, Taiwan, and Nepal. There is also a western soapberry tree that was used historically for the same purposes by Native Americans.

What can I do with a soap nut?

Soap nuts can be used to make an array of cleaning products.

  • Produce rinse
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dish detergent for use in a dishwasher or handwashing
  • Shampoo
  • Face and body wash
  • Shaving Cream
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Glass cleaner
  • Insect repellent
  • Jewelry cleaner
  • Automobile washing

How to use them

There is more than one method for using soap nuts, and the exact measurements may vary based on the exact species you are using. So I advise testing out a few methods to see what gets the best results with the nuts that you have available. That’s what I’ll be doing! But for this blog, I will cover some of the ideas and recipes I have found during my research.

Use the whole nut

Put 4-5 nuts in a mesh bag, tie it off and toss it in with your laundry. Reuse the same bag for approximately 10 loads of laundry, or until the soap nuts seem mushy. To test if the nuts are still good, run the bag under hot water and give it a squeeze, you should see some suds come out.

Note that this works best when using warm water to wash clothes. If you are washing in cold water, then you should steep the bag in hot water for a few minutes to activate the saponin for best results.

Another use for the whole nut is to take 10-12 nuts and let them soak in a bucket of hot water for about 30 minutes. Then use this water to wash your car, your floors, or anything else that you might need a bucket of water to clean. Since the wash is all natural and biodegradable the water can be reused to water your trees or plants. It may even keep pests out of the area watered. If anyone does try watering plants with the leftover water, I’d love to hear how it goes! (I don’t have any plants or yeard to test this out myself).

Make a concentrated liquid cleaner

I have found a number of recipes for a liquid concentrate, ranging from 2 nuts per cup of water to 15 nuts per cup. I went with a middle ground of about 10 nuts per cup of water.

Boil the soap nuts in the water, occasionally smashing them down with a bamboo spoon or something similar, for about 30 minutes. You can add essential oils if you want a scented product. Strain the liquid into a jar, and store in the fridge. Will last about 2 weeks. Another idea is that you can freeze it into cubes and just throw a cube into the laundry machine, dishwasher, or bucket of water.

The concentrated product can be used for multiple purposes

  • Mix 1 TBSP into a bucket of water for mopping floors
  • Mix 1 TBSP into dishwater for dishes
  • Add concentrate directly to dishwasher, or laundry machines (low sud product perfect for machine washing)
  • Mix 1 TBSP concentrate with 1 TBSP white vinegar into a spray bottle and fill with water for glass and multi-purpose cleaners
  • Apply a dab to your cleansing cloth for face or body cleansing. The antibacterial properties of the berry make this an excellent wash for acne prone skin, but it is also not drying and is very gentle for sensitive skin.
  • Mix .5-1 oz into 12 oz water in a jar and pour over your scalp for shampoo (follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse as your conditioner!)
  • Mix 1 TBSP into a gallon bucket of water for another way to get floor and car wash
  • For a jewelry cleaner, use either the straight concentrate or about a 50/50 mix with water, let jewelry soak in it for a bit and then scrub it with a toothbrush.

This list could go on and on, get creative and post your ideas in the comments below!

Make and use as a paste

To make a paste you would take the leftover skins that you boiled to make your concentrate (you would want to remove the hard seeds at this point if you did not buy seedless) and put them in your food processor to create a mash. Then add coconut oil, or olive oil, or grapeseed oil (or whatever type of oil you prefer to use on your skin) and blend it down into a more liquid state. Once you apply to wet skin it will suds up and you can shave away!

The paste of the skins can also be used as a concentrated cleaner and degreaser for tough messes.

Make a powder

You can just buy soap nut powder (and many of the other cleaners listed above), but if you are a DIY sort of person, take the dry nuts and just throw them in your blender, coffee grinder or food processor. I think you would want to use just the skins as the seeds don’t contain any saponin and are rather hard, so they would wear down your blades with no added benefit.

The powder can then be used in basically the same ways as the liquid by putting a scoop into your laundry or into your dishwasher or dishwater.

What else?

The possibilities seem rather endless at this point. I have read that insects are naturally repelled by the plant, which means that no pesticides are needed to grow them. It also means that it has the potential for use as mosquito repellent! Although everything I have read indicates the results are not in as to how effective it might be or the best way to apply it.

It is all natural and very mild so you can use it for your children’s laundry, or for someone with a skin condition such as eczema. You can also use it to shampoo your pet, and supposedly it will help discourage fleas and ticks from them.

Calling all Scientists

There is something missing from the world today … actually, there are a great many somethings missing from the world today.

I refer of course to the species that have gone extinct throughout history. Some of these extinctions occurred naturally over a great span of time. Others occurred as a mass extinction caused by some cataclysmic event. dino

The “natural” rate of extinction is about one-five species per year, but in recent history, scientists have estimated about twelve species per day are going extinct!!

At this rate of acceleration, it appears we may be heading for another mass extinction. This time it will be the end of the Age of Mammals (the Cenozoic Era).

We as humans discuss a lot of issues, politics, religion, social injustice, and yes even the environment. But where we seem to focus our attention is at the very high level, big picture aspects. When we talk about the environment we talk about the ice caps melting (which will take a long time and have obvious widespread effects), we also talk about our grandchildren and providing them with clean air and water. Long-term, big picture stuff.

But what about the small things? The microbiology of Earth? EO Wilson, a microbiologist, speaks out about the importance of insects and microorganisms. For example, he talks about a tiny marine-bacteria in the oceans that was only recently discovered, in 1988. They are now considered to be one of the most populace life forms on Earth, and one of the smallest. This sub-microscopic entity is now thought to be the leading producer of photosynthesis in the ocean.

These are things that go unknown and unnoticed to most people. Because of this ignorance of the world around us. We continue to generate contaminants that we think are protecting us, but are probably actually leading us down the path to extinction. Many small organisms and insects are absolutely vital to our survival, but we spread pesticides and antibiotics with ease.

Wilson has a dream of knowledge, spreading knowledge of every species on Earth and how they might interact with and support our own selves. He calls it the Encylopedia of Life. The idea is an opensource online encyclopedia where scientists can log their knowledge about any and every species on Earth.

That fits into what we discuss in class very nicely, I think, it is basically a scientific forum for sharing information and knowledge. It could inspire a movement to help save some of these species that we unwittingly rely on for life.

Another TED talk given by Wilson is a call to young scientists to take up the mantle of research and discovery. It seems Wilson has a concern about a reduced interest in the field of scientific research. He cites a fear of failure as what he thinks is the reason for this decline. Amusingly, he spends some time trying to convince the audience that math isn’t that hard to learn, and he goes so far as to say that professors and academics should focus less on mathematics, and more on imagination. He suggests that if you make a brilliant discovery, or have a brilliant idea, you can always hire a mathematician to join the research team.

Social Media: The Darth Vader of Society?

My role model

A post shared by Metro Student (@wh6778pw) on

In this class, we talk a lot about how social media can be used for marketing. This makes sense since that is the objective of the course. But, with all of this talk about the positive influences from social media, I can’t help but feel that we are missing an important question: Is social media actually benefiting society as a whole?

This is the big question, and researchers have been looking at this since the iPhone first came out. It is no secret that a lot of experts believe that social media is negatively impacting our society.

How can this make any sense? We have examples all over the world where social media was the glue that held the foundation of society together. Castells writes about a lot of these societies in his book “Networks of Outrage and Hope.” The Occupy Movement, Iceland’s Kitchenware Revolution, and the Tunisian Revolution all survived because of social media. Social media caused a drastic shift in cultures, which benefited the people as a whole. So, which is it? Is social media a medicine or a curse.

I don’t pretend to have the answers, but this question gnaws at my mind.

Social media definitely has its uses, no one would argue with that. But at the same time, it is a breeding ground for narcissism and addiction.

Because of this, I’ll just offer my own opinion on the subject.

Let me start by saying that I agree with Castells that social media gives an advantage to  many modern movements and revolutions. It allows protestors to share stories and to create motivation and stay connected. I do not, however, agree that social media was necessary for these revolutions to occur.

The French Revolution occurred without any help from social media. So did the Spanish, Russian, Cuban, Chinese, and the American Revolution. The Civil Rights Movement was successful without any help from social media. The list could go on for pages.

It is because of this that I think that the Occupy Movement would have happened without the luxury of social media. So would have the Kitchenware and the Tunisian Revolution. It may not have happened the same way and with the same results, but they still would have occurred regardless of whether or not social media was present.  As long as there is outrage, and people are willing to act on that outrage, then a revolution is bond to follow.

No, Iceland would not have been able to have a crowdsourced constitution in a modern sense. It is important to remember, however, that even with social media, only 67% of Iceland’s population agreed with the document. Did social media really add that much?

I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of guy, but I can’t help but feel that social media is more of a nuisance than people realize.

I've always been a glass-half-full kind of guy

A post shared by Metro Student (@wh6778pw) on

In the end, I do think that social media is draining our society. The drawbacks outweigh the benefits. But, like I said before, this is just my opinion on a question that has puzzled me for months.

#BlogType5

 

The Power of Social Media

Remember that video that resurfaced on your feed over and over? And that thing that people tweeted about all day long? Or how about the “hey, have you seen on Facebook…”

I recently came across a video on Facebook that went viral for a quick time. It was a 5 min clip of a police officer taking money from a Hispanic man by the surname of Matia for selling hotdogs on the street without a license. And if the rumors are true, the officer took about sixty dollars from the vendor. In turn, that generated Matia over fifty thousand dollars through a Gofundme campaign.

Sounds familiar?

In December 2010, there was another man name Mohamed Bouazizi from Tunisia who got his produce confiscated and harassed because he did not have a vendor’s permit. He appeared before the courthouse for justice and nothing was done. Therefore, he lit himself up in flames and his actions triggered the Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution.

Image result for bouazizi

What do these two situations have in common? Social media.

Both of these scenes were caught on camera and shared on social media— triggering all kinds of emotions and supports.

The video clip of the Tunisian in flames was shared on Facebook and went viral leading to protests and demonstrations. Bouazizi’s illustration brought the people in his country together and ended their president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 23 years of power and dictatorship. The Tunisian Revolution continues to be a leading example and inspiration for other movements in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Image result for officer takes money from hotdog vendor

The 5 min clip of Matia’s encounter was also shared on Facebook repeatedly. Many people were outraged by his misfortune and raised thousands of dollars to show support. We can see and assume that with the new developments of social media and other networks such as Gofundme campaigns— he did not have to go to an extent for results.

Nevertheless, the moral of these two stories is to show how influential social media can be.

Social media and the internet are so powerful because it provides online community space for people to come together. They are able to support and become a part of the community anonymously. Users also have the capability to connect and share from one platform to another leading to faster actions and results. Something can happen in one area, and the whole world would know in seconds by a few clicks of a mouse. In fact, news travel so fast on social media that most things can be classified as real time.

While social media can make great things happen, “not so great” things can happen as well. So be mindful of what you share, because it may be the next big thing!

 

Free Knowledge

It has taken me exactly 1 hour and 3 minutes to come up with the next topic for my blog (yes–I kept track). For some reason, finding a worthwhile resource on the web is a lot harder than it sounds. You would think that with millions and millions of links, it would take me five minutes to get this blog done.

Well, I finally came up with an idea–

The library. No, I am not just talking about the physical building, although that is also a terrific resource. But, instead, I am referring to the online version of the library, which can be just as important as the physical library–especially for students.

The library is underrated and overlooked. As a community, we should value what the library provides for us: free knowledge.

Who doesn’t want free knowledge?

Washington county library website

A post shared by Metro Student (@wh6778pw) on

For me, I live in Woodbury, so I use the Washington Country library. This website is so useful that I am baffled when I realize that most people don’t even own a library card. When I went to the Washington County library, it took me exactly four minutes to get a library card and to start checking out books. It is arguably the easiest thing that you’ll ever do.

It’s not just about checking out books, it is about the homework help centers, the free databases, the audiobooks, and the classes. All of these things can be found on the website and has the potential to be useful for every student.

I typically agree with T.S. Eliot’s opinion of  libraries.

The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man

Everything in the library is free, but it is up to us to use the resources. We need to take the intuitive and learn. This will not only help our grades, but it will help our brains and will help us become better critical thinkers.

Who doesn’t want to be considered a critical thinker? As the old platitude goes: readers are leaders.

So turn off the TV, and grab a book. It doesn’t have to be long–25 minutes a day is a good place to start. You’ll be surprised how much reading can affect your life, your outlook, and your empathy.

Don’t take my word for it–Albert Einstein once said,

The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.

We take libraries for granted, but we really shouldn’t. Many historical cultures and civilizations would envy us for our immense storage of knowledge.

So don’t take it for granted. Appreciate libraries and use them regularly.

Since we’re talking about books, I figured I’d add a picture of one of my personal favorites:

Best book ever?

A post shared by Metro Student (@wh6778pw) on

Keep the library in mind when you have a homework assignment you are struggling with. All you have to do is check out the library website.

Ask, and it shall be given you.

#BlogType1

Feeling Like Superman

Power, confidence, optimism: These are words that most of us want to be known by. We desire to be taken seriously and be shown respect–it’s a basic human want. How can we accomplish this?

Before we answer that question, we need to know something about nonverbal communication.

According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, 93% of all our communication is nonverbal. In most cases, it doesn’t matter what we say; what matters is how we say it. Our facial expression, tone of voice, and eye contact are all factors in how our communication is received.

When people first hear this, they are shocked. That is because most of us already have misconceptions on how communication works.

Building off of this, Amy Cuddy did a TED Talk in 2012 that looks at our body language in the same way.

During the TED Talk, Cuddy shows that, in the same way that our communication mainly revolves around nonverbal gestures, the way we feel and our confidence are directly affected by out posture.

When you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to feel powerful.

Amy Cuddy

Cuddy shows that the way you sit or stand can directly affect your testosterone levels. Our bodies have the ability to change our minds and the way we think, for better or for worse.

Superman power pose

A post shared by Metro Student (@wh6778pw) on

There is a reason why Superman stands the way he does. Even though it sounds ridiculous, the research proves that it is true. Cuddy stated in her TED Talk that if we held a “superman” power pose for two minutes, our testosterone would increase and we would feel more confident.

Of course, just like kryptonite to Superman, if we curl up and use low-power poses when we sit or stand, then our testosterone levels will plummet and we’ll feel insecure and weak.

So, you want to be confident and powerful, then act like it. It’ll feel silly at first, but do power poses. I recommend that you watch all of Cuddy’s TED Talk because it does have the power to change your outlook on life and the way you carry yourself.

From these two sources about communication, we see an overarching theme: People are very social creatures, and our actions speak much louder than our words.

#BlogType2

 

Student Life: Books and Copy What?

Ebooks and physical books both have their benefits  and weaknesses especially for students. According to latimes.com a study found that 92% of college student prefer traditional paper books over ebooks.  This doesn’t come as a suprise to me. While I do see why so many college students like paper books, our world is becoming increasingly technology  based.

This article states the pros and cons of paper textbooks and ebooks. I find that the article states many of the reasons why I like ebooks.  However when using an audiobook I prefer to have a physical book as well! There is something about just listening to a voice that doesn’t engage me. As a college student with a disability I find the ability to highlight and search the book useful. Not to mention the ability to increase the font size which is something the article doesn’t mention.

Many textbooks are not available in digital format (at least not where I need them, Also if you buy an ebook more than likely you can’t resell it which leads to a loss of money.

Many books have copyright. This is something that I was not aware of. Please see this video to learn about copyright.
img_0024
I actually saw this video in another class and found it quite useful. I thought that this would also relate to what we are learning in class.  Copyright doesn’t only relate to books it relates to social media. We must ask to use photos before we post them on social media.

While copyright is a serious issue, I believe it is very hard to not violate copyright laws in our daily lives.  I believe it is important to cite your sources when it  comes to academic work. However, we are taught to just cite our sources which the video states isn’t enough. So in reality we are still violating copyright?

In terms of copyright related to my personal writing I have never thought about using it.. However, in terms of my writing I would find copyright useful. I believe copyright is useful to protect books, music, etc.
#books #ebooks #technology #socialmedia #copyright #citations #lifeofstudents #blog4

 

 

A Cat Will Never Break Your Heart…

VZM.IMG_20151209_095155 (2)

No, seriously, its true!  Did you know that the simple act of owning a cat reduces the risk of heart attacks?  According to Medicalnewstoday.com, “Owning a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack by nearly one third, researchers told delegates of the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in New Orleans last week.”  So the question remains.. why don’t we all own cats!?

For those of us who love our little feline friends, we can tack this neat little fact on to our list of awesome things about cats.  For those who aren’t big fans, listen up!  Yeah, sure, you might have to clean up its poop, buy it food, and, god forbid, touch the little fur-ball every once and a while, but if it helps reduce the number one cause of deaths in the united states every year, why not at least consider having one!

It’s not like cats are even hard to get, either!  Animal shelters are full of them, already fixed and needing “hoomans” to love*!  Visit your local shelter to find out more about adopting a little life saver!

Still reading?

Then I probably haven’t convinced you yet…

Well if you are vehemently against owning a furry friend, you can always donate to the American Heart Association.  

#catsrule #catsareawesome #cats #hashtag