Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Open Letter to Jennifer Lawrence

My dear, Jennifer Mockingjay Lawrence,
You truly are “The Girl on Fire”. I have never known someone to fall down so often and so gracefully, but when you do, the revolution in Panem isn’t the only thing “catching fire”.

Even outside of playing Katniss Everdeen, you are supposed to be a good shot with a bow and arrow. You should know that I too used a bow and arrow once and almost didn’t miss. Regardless of my accuracy with a bow and arrow (or lack thereof), I know exactly what we’ll be doing on our first, second, and forever date, or at least until you get bored. (And since I’m willing to lay down with an apple in my mouth and let you shoot at me, there’s no possible way you could be.)

Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but I also heard you like eating, and especially pizza. (I mean, who doesn’t?) If I ever ask if you’re hungry and you reply, “Yeah, I could eat”, know that I know that you’re starving and that we’ll soon be piling into my parents’ 2002 Honda Odyssey (I’ll do you the courtesy of driving), hitting the nearest pizza joint, ordering one of everything, and engorging ourselves like we aren’t going to feel sick and disgusting tomorrow. As long as that’s what you want, of course.

As for your previous significant others, I don’t have anything against them except for the fact they aren’t me. But not entirely.

Though you never actually dated Josh Hutcherson, just in case, I’m going to cover him and the character he portrayed anyway. Sure, he’s attractive, but I’m also drop-dead gorgeous if I do say so myself (and I do). And if you like him for his fascination with bread, you should know that I can make a mean buttered toast and once ordered a “hot dog with just bun”. (Note: I’m also open to eating other carbohydrates and starches as well as any other unhealthy foods. Like you, dieting is not my game to play.) Peeta Mellark is supposedly a pretty good artist from practice with all of that frosting he used in his family’s bakery, but I can draw and paint and color inside the lines as well and very well. So basically, with me, you’re getting everything good about Josh Hutcherson/Peeta Mellark and then some.

As for Chris Martin from Coldplay, if you’re expecting me to sing to you like he did, well, I can’t. Although, I do know all the words to the best song ever written, “The Hanging Tree - Rebel Remix”, and as such, might be able to lip-sync (but not sing) it for you. (Dancing not included).

You say that you were attracted to Darren Aronofsky because of his talent and brilliance. I don’t deny he has both of those, but I’m equally (if not more) talented and brilliant. Not to mention he is twenty-one years your senior. And if you’re willing to date someone so much older than you, in a few more years, why not someone ten years younger? (We should wait a few years not only so I’m older, but so I can hopefully grow taller than you. If I don’t, I’m completely fine looking up if it means I’m looking up at you.)

With that said, beloved, if this letter ever does find its way to you, you should know that I would volunteer for tribute, fight in every Hunger Games, and… Actually, no, I wouldn’t. I’ll really be lounging on my couch, eating chips, and watching your movies with a throbbing heart.

To our future together,

Steven Noll

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The DMV, The Happiest Place on Earth

Write about how you started driving (or why you don't).
It was only two months ago that I passed the written driving exam and obtained my learner's permit. Considering I turned sixteen in November of 2016, I discovered that I'm able to not only put off school assignments, but other things as well, namely driving. For whatever reason, I insisted that I wasn't prepared to drive, and thus deliberately provided any excuse I could to delay the attainment of my learner's permit. As one of my friends pulled up to school one day in a rusty, unhinged car, I figured that I could still wait to get my license. That is, until a few weeks later when another one of my friends pulled up to school behind the wheel. Then another. And another. Finally, as I engaged in lively banter with my circle of friends during breaks, I was surprised to find that I was the only one to not have a patterned lanyard dangling gleefully from my pocket, concealing a ring of keys at the bottom. As I stood there, envying my friends and their sleek licenses, I finally took the initiative to complete the online driver's training program that I had started months prior. 

Although I had finished the online program quite quickly after that point, I was unable to take the written exam because the local DMV was only open during school hours and closed during the weekends, leaving me with the options of either skipping school or waiting a few extra weeks. Of course, I waited the few extra weeks, dreading the fact that after studying for academic finals, I would have to study for another final of sorts: the driving written exam. However, because I was so motivated to start practicing actual driving prior to the start of the new school year, I studied incessantly, refusing to stop reviewing and covering any and all material related to driving. As I scheduled an appointment at the DMV, I was astonished to find that I only had to wait a few days, not months, for an appointment. 

Image result for excited gif
Now, it probably would have been more appropriate if I hadn't burst into the DMV, smiling and waving, but I couldn't help it. I was delighted to start driving, but from the looks of everyone waiting around in rigid chairs, I got the impression that I was the only person in the building happy to be there. 

I can tell you with great confidence that I had over-prepared for the written driver's exam. I was ready to write free response answers on parallel parking or entering the freeway, but in the end, it was all simple multiple choice. I can also say with great confidence that the textbook knowledge I gained of driving from such intense studying continues to benefit me as I drive behind the wheel. 

Sure, I've been honked at already, and yes, I've run over curbs as well, but I haven't had any issues with when to stop or go or identifying signs and their corresponding meaning. However, it is especially important that I learn to better control the vehicle because I have three younger siblings, which really means I have three younger people I'll have to start driving to practices and picking up from school. I must say that I don't drive for leisure or pleasure, I certainly don't find it "fun" or "enjoyable", but it is an essential skill, and hopefully one that I improve throughout the next few months. Because if not, I'll find myself being chauffeured everywhere by my mother. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Garlic-and-Onion Gum

Write a thank-you note to someone who gave you garlic-and-onion flavored gum.

As I sit here writing this letter, meticulously forming my letters, deliberately formulating my thoughts, I can’t help but be disgusted at my reeking breath, and even more so disgusted at you. I don’t know how you figured it out. I haven’t told anyone, not even my parents. Yet there you were, striding up to me on some random day to offer me a piece of gum. Excuse me, a piece of garlic-and-onion flavored chewing gum. And you know what? You’re right. I do have a fear of bad breath, and if it weren’t for you, that’d still be a secret. I can envision it now. After I had eaten my lunch, I slipped away from the cafeteria and ran to the nearest bathroom just a few minutes before we were dismissed. Positive that no one else was lurking around, I gingerly took out my toothbrush and toothpaste. After one more cautious glance, I squirted my toothpaste onto my toothbrush and vigorously brushed every corner and crevice of my mouth. After minutes of brushing, I swished, blew, and spit out the toothpaste and topped it all off with a shot of mouthwash. I felt refreshed. At least that is, until you showed up. I was leaving the bathroom, flashing my gums when you came up to me and smiling, cupped a piece of gum in my hand, saying “This way your freshness will last all day.” With a grin, I popped the gum in my mouth and you ran off. It was only after I had returned to the classroom that I noticed. Noticed the fermenting flavors in my previously immaculate, pristine mouth. Bottles of mouthwash later, a burgeoning hint of mint is finally developing, but I’ll probably have to brush for the next thirty minutes to completely rid my mouth of that vile substance. So for now, I’ll try my very best to avoid you and especially your gum at all costs. As for you, don’t be surprised if I’ve replaced your water with mouthwash. Thanks again, but next time, don’t bother.

Samuel Orla

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Two Biggest Lies of Every Reader

When I'm not blogging or napping, (which isn't very often), I'm most likely slouching in a leather chair, picking my way through a novel or writing one of my own. Now, like most readers, I hate being interrupted. Therefore, when I'm intently reading and clearly do not wish to be bothered, when asked, "What are you reading?", without glancing away from the page, I silently raise my book so that the title is clearly displayed. And sure, it's slightly annoying to respond to such questions as "What are you reading?", but since I as a reader haven't lied yet, no harm no foul.

Now, we all know that one person who insists on a thorough plot summary as well as character analysis in response to the question, "What are you reading?" And when this known individual comes around asking "What are you reading?" while I'm slouched in my leather chair and perhaps sipping a warm drink, without moving my head, I lift just my eyes from the page to glare directly into theirs. Like so.

                              Image result for reading gifs  

And if that isn't enough and a spoken answer is required, all readers (myself included), smile sharply and utter these two lies.
Interrogator: What are you reading?
Reader: A book.
Interrogator: What's it about?
Reader: Oh, nothing.

A book?! Oh nothing?! Now those statements are indeed, the two biggest lies of every reader. When you respond to the "interrogator" with the phrase, "a book," sure, you're telling the literal, fundamental truth, but you're still lying. You're lying, because you're not just reading "a book", you're exploring and discovering a new existence. You're absorbing the lifeblood of another reader who at some point decided that they not only wanted to read and explore, but wanted to write and create. You're not reading words on a page, you're reading the lives and experiences of those whom you have never met before.

And even worse, you have the audacity to say that the book you're reading is about, "oh, nothing"? Because the book you're reading is most certainly about something. And that "something" is important enough to you that you're willing to momentarily leave the "something" of your own life to attempt to experience and understand that "something" of another person's life.

So, the next time you're asked the question, "What are you reading?", be sure that you remain the honest reader and don't answer, "a book." And when you're also asked, "What's it about?", don't respond, "Oh, nothing." Because that would be lying, and only writers lie.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Corners - A Short Story

Writing Prompt: Write about someone that was buried alive.

I’ve always despised enclosed, suffocating spaces. Yet there I was, in an enclosed, suffocating space buried several feet under layers of dark soil. Consequential to hours of incessant shouting, my throat and lungs were raw and tense. In a vain attempt to soothe the pain and conserve the remaining air, I breathed slowly and deliberately, consciously inhaling small sums of oxygen and subsequently holding my breath. However, even in small doses, with each spurt of air I inhaled, claws scraped my flaking lips and slithered down through my esophagus, only to puncture my already coarse lungs.
           Although each inhalation was punctuated by such fits of splintering anguish, as I lay in silence, detecting my haphazard breathing pattern, I realized that I had never considered that the interiors of coffins could be so comfortably furnished. I relaxed and allowed my eyelids to drift to a close, actively prodding and poking my surroundings while delighting in the soft, padded frame of my confinement. Contorting into a curled position, I patted what felt like a blanket covering my lower body and pulled it toward my head, simultaneously nestling the side of my head into a thick pillow.

As comfortable as the coffin’s interior was, as I relaxed, numb to the excruciating pain I had endured for hours prior, I lurched upright, slamming my head into the also padded overhead casing of the coffin. Shuddering, I quickly recovered and concentrated my efforts into escaping my enclosure. Sucking a breath in, I heaved upward, my shoulder rising to shrug against the ceiling of the coffin. Unsuccessful, I tried again, but crouched and braced my legs to provide extra support and leverage. As I strained my neck, tensing every tendon and fiber of my body, my legs soon collapsed and I lay motionless and silent. Raising my hand, I caressed my palm on the ceiling of the coffin, feeling no difference in the overhead casing save for minor creases it had suffered following my attempt to escape.

Returning to a prostrate position, as I squinted, attempting to make out any distinguishable detail from the coffin’s interior, it was only then that I noticed how penetrating the darkness of the coffin’s interior was. I was essentially gazing into a dense, velvet nothingness that folded and twisted around my limbs. I viciously clawed at the darkness, desperately trying to peel away any layer of blackness I could, until I felt an odd protrusion on the far end of the coffin’s overhead casing.

My heart thundering and beads of sweat crowning my forehead, I shifted my torso to face the condensed protrusion. With an outstretched palm parallel to the floor of the coffin, I fingered the ceiling until I brushed across the fine lettering. Punctuated with spaces and capitals, I traced the lettering with my fingernail, struggling to make out the sentence I assumed it displayed. After laboring over the inscription, I finally pieced together the poorly written sentence:
         Corners are escape.
      Without thought or hesitation, I stroked the spines of each corner of the coffin and heard latches snap with each brush. As I reached for the final corner of the coffin and snapped its corresponding latch, I heard a soft ringing overhead.
             As the ringing stubbornly proceeded, I awaited another sound, a voice, a shovel. Alas, still, that was all I heard. I resorted to counting seconds on my fingers in intervals of ten, allowing monotony to reduce my disappointment.Nearing four thousand, I heard it: chink. I had heard it. I had heard the sound of freedom, of rescue, of escape. I knocked and beat on the ceiling of my coffin in response, and was rewarded with the satisfying sound of another chink. Gnawing on my fingers, I hopefully listened for more sounds, removing my fingers from mouth only after the coffin was heaved open and I gazed into the cold, shallow eyes of a bearded man. Sharp wrinkles and creases accentuated the corners of his eyes and lips, and his stringy, fraying hair was caked with grease. Without a word, he hoisted me from the coffin, and scanning the vicinity, lay down into the coffin himself, oddly gesturing to me that I should close the coffin.
    Vigorously shaking my head and denying his unfathomable request, I silently strode away, tripping over a bell I had not noticed, the bell that had been my salvation.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dishonesty and Taking My Own Advice

I recently wrote a post listing strategies I recommend to boost productivity during the long summer days. Although these techniques are helpful and (most likely) effective, I personally can't vouch for their efficacy considering I haven't utilized or practiced them myself. And because I recently returned from an extensive vacation and consequently neglected blogging in its entirety, I decided to test the tips I gave myself. In hindsight, I probably should have tried and tested these tips prior to writing an advisory post about such techniques.

1. Make a Schedule
The first technique I explained in my previous post was creating a summer schedule. This summer schedule to which I refer is not created by randomly marking a blank calendar or chart, but by taking one's school schedule and substituting summer activities for classes. Although apparently complex, this process is actually quite simple and summarized in the image below. I actually thought this was the most helpful of all the techniques I listed, because I've personally had some difficulty staying on task for prescribed amounts of time. (Outside of school, that is.)

2. Turn Off Notifications
Now, this was a relatively easy one. I've never had any issue ignoring the (few) notifications I receive across all of my devices. However, being a computer and technology incompetent guy, the most difficult part of this procedure was figuring out how to disable notifications in the first place. Although I toiled in the settings of my devices for extensive periods of time, I finally figured it out after returning to a manual. This technique was quite helpful in limiting distractions. Although insignificant for myself, I understand how helpful this strategy would be for those that find themselves constantly wandering to their devices, drawn by the illuminated screen and the banners flashing across its surface.

3. Get Organized
This task proved to be quite difficult, primarily because after returning from vacation, my family and I moved to a new temporary house for a month. Consequently, all, and I mean all of my belongings are stowed away in storage or in poorly labeled boxes. (I'm to blame for that one). However, having a set of essential items in my backpack, I finally managed to gather enough materials to create a makeshift, haphazard environment for my summer productivity.

I may have mentioned in my previous post that I had used these techniques and strategies beforehand and they were supremely effective. And if I do say so myself, they are. However, I obviously should have used these strategies before advocating them, and for that I apologize to the select few readers that are viewing both this post and also viewed post preceding it. Until then, I sincerely wish you the greatest of luck in summer productivity, and if these tips were of any assistance to you or someone you know, make sure to leave a comment.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How to be Productive this Summer

Now that school has finally finished, I find myself at home and primarily unproductive. Mindlessly watching videos and sleeping are two such unproductive activities consequential to the lack of organization and order in my days. I've now learned that with all of this time on my hands, it is imperative that I avoid all couches, mattresses, and electronics, lest I cannot pry my body from a collapsed, resting position or my eyes from a glowing screen.

So, as I thought about any sound advice to give regarding summer productivity, I finally compiled a list of short tips that may aid you in being productive this summer.
1. Make a Schedule
So, I decided to try something interesting: I took my old school schedule, which lists a starting time of 8:15 and ending time of 3:00, and substituted productive summer activities for the classes on this schedule. Thus, my productive activities are equally divided into eighty minute chunks while leaving the afternoon free. However, minor adjustments should be made to compensate for differences in eating times and of course, unnecessary periods for passing between classes. Furthermore, by following a summer schedule that parallels your schedule for school, the transition back to school in a few months will be seamless.

2. Turn off Notifications
Now this one is more difficult, as it requires a concentrated and constant effort to resist enabling notifications again. However, as I have found, by disabling notifications, whether from social media or even e-mail, it is significantly easier to resist returning to these distracting applications and thus detracting from your summer productivity. This is so because the purpose of notifications is to subtly encourage the recipient of such notifications to return to their corresponding application. And, if you're like me and receive constant updates on various platforms and systems, then the cycle is seemingly never ending. But once you disable those pesky notifications, productivity will be easy.

3. Get Organized My final piece of advice, although probably goes without saying, is to remain organized. It's easy during the summer to become disorganized and disordered, but by adopting a pattern of organization during summer similar to that of the school year, you'll not only be productive during the summer, but be prepared to return to school in the fall. Furthermore, by consistently organizing materials prior to beginning a specific summer project, you subsequently limit unnecessary interruptions and distractions.

I hope that this was a helpful post, (because if it wasn't, I wasn't very productive in writing it). Although these steps are all beneficial in bolstering summer productivity, this isn't the only way to be productive during the summer. I advise you to combine these ideas with your own to produce a summer program that is personally effective and efficient. And with that, make sure to enjoy your summer as well.