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Two Weeks Of Random Blurbs

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Wow… I haven’t updated in almost two weeks. A lot’s gone on in that time. Let me get everyone up to speed on what’s happening in my life, with a few quick blurbs.First off, last weekend I went to Field Day of the Past out in Goochland. I’m usually an exhibitor out there, taking my history exhibition out there, displaying old pictures of Short Pump and the three-dimensional model and whatnot. I decided to take this year off, however. But I still went out to see everything, and one of the highlights of my visit was getting to see the choir of Springfield Baptist Church perform at their relocated church building on the show grounds. In a joint effort initiated by myself and others in the Henrico Historical Society and officials with the County, Springfield Baptist Church was moved from its original home on Brookriver Drive behind Best Buy in Short Pump, to the Field Day grounds in Goochland. It was really moving to see how incredibly happy the congregation was that their circa 1880 church was saved from the bulldozer and preserved for everyone to see and enjoy. I filmed the entire move from a pickup truck directly in front of the church as it made its way westward on Broad Street. I’ll edit and post it up here someday soon. Here’s a video of the choir’s performance that I filmed last weekend:[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCfeY3coHig]Speaking of music, I also went to the Jon McLaughlin concert at the Canal Club with Megan and Tori. It was amazing. Jon was awesome, but I’ve gotta say, Sara Bareilles stole the show… well at least in my mind. She is absolutely incredible. Her vocal style, unique music composition, and overall aura were just mind-boggling. She is so extremely talented. Here’s a video I took of her song “Long Song” (for the rest of the videos, visit my YouTube site… just click on the link in the video):[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqKwxqNxNX4]This past weekend has been a mixed bag, I guess you could say. It started out great. Friday night, Tori and I worked on video production stuff at church, then went to dinner at Max & Erma’s. It was great to just chill out for once and talk about life. Yesterday, I went to Casa Grande with two of my friends from high school, Sarah and Becca. It was awesome getting to catch up with them because we never really see each other anymore. They’re always a lot of fun to hang with and definitely keep me laughing. The fun kind of got cut short, though, because somehow, while at lunch, I was rewetting the contact lens in my left eye when all of a sudden it felt like I had an eyelash in my eye, or something of that nature. I got up and went to the bathroom to see if I could get my contact out and see what was in my eye. I couldn’t see anything. I even got Becca to look and still nothing. So after lunch, we went cruising in my mom’s new convertible (She just got a new Toyota Solara… it’s pretty fun to drive!). It was a lot of fun, but my eye got increasingly worse.By the time I got back home after dropping them off, I could barely keep it open anymore. So as I laid on the sofa with a cold compress, my best friend Jen called me and asked what time we were going to dinner (we had planned to a couple of days ago).  I explained the situation, and said I should probably go to Patient First (the only medical place open on a Saturday afternoon) and get it checked out. At this point it was hurting whether or not I had it open or closed. So she offered to drive me up there, and we had to have been in there an hour or more. It turns out I scratched my cornea. I know that sounds really bad, and I thought it was, but it actually heals within 24 hours in most situations, and now, about 36 hours afterwards, I’m feeling a lot better. But last night, I was in a lot of pain and kept the eye shut for the most part. Jen took really good care of me, though. Not only did she wait patiently with me at Patient First, but (after we grabbed dinner at Tara Thai) she drove me to get my prescription, back home to get the South Side campus hard drive to take to church, and to Blockbuster to get a movie, which we took back and Jen pretty much just watched, seeing that I really felt more like closing my eyes. But I just wanted to post this to let her know just how much taking care of me like that means to me and how much I love her.So it’s been an eventful couple of weeks. I’m chilling out for a little while in preparation for another busy week ahead. I’ve got a lot more to post on, coming in the next couple of days!

Trading In, Trading Up: iPhone

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Ever since the iPhone came out in late June, I wanted one really bad. I told myself I wasn’t going to get one. Well, for one, I had Sprint and had no intentions of dropping them. But when Apple dropped the price of the 8GB iPhone by $200, I just had to take the opportunity to get one. I know I posted before about my enV (I got Verizon after I dumped Sprint about a month ago, but bought the iPhone when they dropped the price and got my money back from Verizon- they have a 30-day money-back guarantee) and I have nothing bad to say about Verizon. Unlike Sprint, I had great service with them and got a signal just about everywhere, including my office building downtown, which is a concrete barricade for most all cell providers and even the majority of local radio stations. But, I just felt that I needed more of a PDA-like device to organize all I have going on with school, work, everything I do with church, and extracurricular activities.

I absolutely love my iPhone. It’s just like my Mac: intuitive interface, easy to use, simple yet powerful, minimalistic architecture, aesthetically pleasing, elegant, and is designed beautifully. Everything made by Apple just makes sense, and this device is no exception.

I’d like to go through and review each home screen application individually, as they appear on screen, based on my personal experiences over the past week. Here’s my personal review:

Text – Sending texts on this phone resembles an iChat conversation (it’s not too far off from AIM, either) with the talk bubbles and conversation-based layout. The on-screen keyboard is very easy to use despite it’s small size because of the shear precision of the touch screen interface.

Calendar – Syncs with iCal (Mac) or Microsoft Office Outlook (PC). I have four color-coded calendars set up in my iCal: Personal, Work, Church, and VCU. They all sync seamlessly with the iPhone. All alerts, reminders, and other features remain intact and all events are editable on the fly. My Mac was already helping tremendously to organize my busy (as of lately) life, but now that I have my calendar with me at all times I always know what I have going on.

Photos – Displays photos automatically synchronized from iPhoto (Mac) or any set folder on your Mac or PC, or those taken directly with the iPhone’s built-in camera. Nifty interface with options for slideshows, transitions, and other cool things. You can also quickly zoom in or out on photos by “pinching” the screen (sliding your thumb and index finger together/apart).

Camera – Nice 2.0 megapixel digital camera that takes photos comperable to the iSight webcam built into my MacBook Pro. Good color quality with little to no brightness wash-out that you sometimes get with cameras on mobile devices.

YouTube – Excellent mobile version of the site with options for search, most popular videos, bookmarks, and more. Nice widescreen, full display of videos, fast loading, especially when connected to wi-fi as opposed to over AT&T’s Edge data network.

Stocks – As you could imagine, I’m not really into the stock market, but very nice interface for checking up on the performance of your favorite companies should you so choose

Maps – A mobile version of the Google Maps application, and just as with any Google software, it’s feature-rich and intuitive. “Pinch” to zoom in/out, view satellite imagery, get directions, search for the nearest anything (a simple search for Starbucks returns all the nearby Starbucks locations, complete with wi-fi information and phone numbers. Some even include store hours!

Weather – Simple, easy-to-use weather interface that shows the next few upcoming days’ weather forecast and high/low temperatures, easily customized for multiple locations

Clock – Includes a timer, stopwatch, alarms feature, and world clock that displays the time in any city of your choosing worldwide

Calculator – Does the job. Simple, big buttons, does what it needs to do

Notes – Similar to the Stickies application in Mac OS X, useful for writing down “to do” items or anything you need to remember

Settings – Controls for everything on the iPhone, including really cool built-in ringtones. A lot of times phones come with lame ringtones, but Apple did a good job with this.

Phone – Well, this IS why I have the thing, right? Among other things, yes. View all your contacts (synchronized from Address Book (Mac) or Microsoft Office Outlook (PC)), and just click to see all their details. Click below to get to your “Favorites” list (basically speed dial on most phones), and the voicemail menu brings up one of the coolest features: Visual Voicemail. No more dialing your mailbox to retrieve messages and listening to frustrating audio prompts from within. Visual Voicemail does just what it sounds like- visually displays your voicemail messages and lets you click on them to play (click below to stop or pause) and delete or save them, scroll through them much like you would with a song on the iPod, and call the person back, all with one touch of the screen. Amazing feature.

Mail – All mail messages and account settings are imported during sync, and you can set your iPhone to automatically check for new messages from multiple accounts up to every 15 minutes. Very sleek, nice interface, easy to read and reply. I have my two personal accounts, VCU, and GACC accounts set up and they all work together seamlessly.

Safari – The iPhone is the first phone to offer “true” internet, not the mobile version you find on most phones. With the ability to “pinch” and “pull” to zoom in and out on the page, you can easily view everything in a snap. The screen will rotate from the normal portrait mode to landscape (widescreen) when you flip the iPhone 90 degrees. Very, very cool.

iPod – All the features of a regular iPod, with the ability to actually hear the songs on the built-in speaker, and view Cover Flow (shows your album artwork like a jukebox) when you turn your iPhone in landscape mode.

So with all these wonderful features, I will say that there are actually a few downsides that I’ve noticed. Nothing’s perfect. Apple is due for another firmware update (1.0.3) within the next week or two, and I think they are going to squash most of the bugs. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

1. When I listen to music on the iPod application of the iPhone and open up Safari and get online, either Safari or the iPod application will crash sometimes. It’s about a 50/50 chance. You’re supposed to be able to multitask and have multiple applications open, so I think this is definitely something the update will address.

2. No picture mail (!). Can you believe that? A phone that can send emails, have full web access, and get on YouTube can’t send multimedia messages? Wow. There is a workaround I’ve found, though. You can email photos you’ve taken on your iPhone, so let’s say you wanted to send a picture to a friend who has Verizon. All you have to do is email it to FRIENDSNUMBER@vzwpix.com and it will be sent to their phone as a picture message. Cool, huh? It sucks you have to do that, but it works.

3. No instant messaging/AIM support. The texting application looks like iChat and resembles an online chat, but for some reason no AIM support was included. This is rumored to be included with the update that’s coming out, so we’ll see. There is a nice version of Meebo built for the iPhone, though, although it sometimes causes Safari to crash.

4. No video support. This is also a rumored update. The camera is completely capable of good quality video, so I think this will be supported.

5. Limited settings. The Settings application is very clean, but limited. For example, you can’t change the alert tone for texts, voicemail, email, or calendar alerts. Lame!

Overall, the iPhone is amazing. It’s far beyond any of the competition. Years away, I believe. I’m very happy with my purchase and look forward to the future additions and updates.

A Media Revival

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Sorry for the big gap in posting, I’ve been extremely busy between college, work, and volunteering at church this past week. I just wanted to give an update about some media-related things I’ve done before that I want to revive in the not-so-distant future.

 The first is my podcast. I had a podcast for a while, entitled “Evolution of Thought,” a show that was co-hosted by my friend Alex Legum. We were actually on a roll, averaging 350+ steady listeners each week. After a while, though, I just let it slip away and recorded the show less and less. They can still be found in the iTunes Music Store, so take a listen if you want. I’m bringing the show back, this time with a new name, new direction, and some exciting new guests that I’ll announce at a later date as they’re confirmed. Anyway, the show is now entitled “Complex Simplicity,” just as my blog is. At first, I thought this would work because it was just a cool name that incorporated an oxymoron, but when I thought about it more, it perfectly describes myself! A simple mind talking about complex issues! But all joking aside, I’m really excited to bring it back bigger and better than ever and really get some interesting topics and guests on. About a month ago, I contacted Jason Paige, the former Program Director for Q94, (WRVQ) who does voiceover work in many of the commercials you hear on the radio in Richmond on any and all stations. He’s the voice you hear in a lot of the nightclub commercials as well as for the King’s Dominion ones. I asked if he would do a voiceover for the music intro I already made. It sounds really professional and I can’t wait to use it. Stay tuned, I’ll post more details about the podcast in the coming days.

Another endeavor I’m aiming for is starting a community newsletter and distributing it freely across the Short Pump area. I actually did this a long time ago back when I was about thirteen years old, and it was called the Glen Allen Observer. I want to bring it back in a much bigger and obviously a much more mature and professional manner. It’s going to be called “Short Pump Panorama,” and I’ll have some advertisements to offset the cost of printing and make a little bit of extra money hopefully. If you’d like to write a column or just a one-time article for it, please let me know- I’d be happy to give you some space in there to share just about anything you want! The newsletter will compliment the website I started last year, (needs to be updated) www.downtownshortpump.com. The site is intended to be a mini Richmond.com of sorts, featuring a shopping guide, restaurant listings, movie times, etc. just in and around the Short Pump area. I’ve gotten one advertiser for the site thus far but plan to grow it in leaps and bounds in the next couple of months. I actually get a lot of traffic to the site because I have free advertising. It’s really a funny story. About two years ago I was driving along Broad Street and noticed www.downtownshortpump.com printed on the Downtown Short Pump entertainment complex sign in front of the movie theater. For some reason, I went to the site when I got home, and noticed it was no longer up. I proceeded to register the name for only eight bucks because the developer, who used the site for promotional purposes, let it expire!

So anyway, that’s what I’m up to lately. Comments? Suggestions? Want to be a guest on the show or write for the newsletter? Let me know!

If I Had $330 Million Dollars

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So last week, driving to and from VCU, I kept seeing the Mega Millions billboard, growing all the way to $330 million by the end of the week. I’ve never played the lottery before, but I decided I just had to this time. First of all I was tempted all week by the billboard, but that’s a heck of a lot of money. I had to play. Friday night after I went out to dinner I bought ten tickets at the Short Pump Shell station, where someone bought a multi-million dollar ticket only a couple months ago. I was feeling lucky! I ended up matching two numbers on one of my tickets, but you need three to win anything. My dad played and won $7 for three numbers. Me? Well I’m just out ten dollars. Oh well. Anywho I kind of thought about what I’d do if I actually won $330 million. Here’s how I’d break it down:

– $50 million for my church (Glen Allen Community Church), who’s vision and goals I share to the deepest extent possible, to start locations and build buildings for any and all of their campuses, and expand the ministries all over Richmond, maybe even the whole state, and beyond
– $40 million to a few charities, distributed equally between the VCU Massey Cancer Center in honor of so many people I’ve known and loved in my life who have died of cancer, the Freedom House Homeless Shelter downtown, the Richmond SPCA, and Young Life because of how much it’s enriched my life and helped so many of my friends come to know Christ
– $10 million for International Christian missions projects especially in Africa, but all around the world
– $10 million to purchase a complete Mac video editing suite in my house and purchase field production equipment, as well as finance my first movie production, in which I’ll promote environmental issues such as stopping global warming
– $5 million to buy my parents, who have always done anything and everything to help me succeed in life, the beach house in the Outer Banks they’ve always wanted and talked about
– $200,000 to put myself as well as my sister through college, with extra money left over for all those extra living expenses life throws your way
– $60,000 for a new fuel-efficient hybrid car to reduce my impact on the environment
– $50,000 to travel all around the world and visit places like Italy, Australia, Greece, Lebanon, (the preceeding two because of their food!), Spain, and a few other places
– The remaining money would be invested and saved for the future

So there you have it… how I would use $330 million dollars! Guess I better keep buying those lotto tickets.

Mac Vs. Windows: Have The Tables Turned?

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It’s long been known that Windows has been the operating system of choice for businesses, and the clear winner when it came to home computers, as well. Macs have been known to be associated with niche markets such as in education and for creative fields such as graphic design. But is the sturdy foundation that Windows built more than a decade and a half ago being chipped away by Apple? All recent indications point to yes. Here’s a small snippet from an article featured on the Apple Insider website:

The media frenzy surrounding the iPhone may have helped Apple claim a record share of customers for its portable line at the expense of its rivals Dell and HP, says a new survey from ChangeWave. An early August study that canvassed 3,665 of the financial research group’s existing members’ buying habits has revealed that nearly one sixth, or 17 percent, of respondents who had bought a notebook in the past three months had chosen one of Apple’s MacBook or MacBook Pro models. The gain was an “unprecedented” jump from 12 percent in June and eclipsed the Mac maker’s previous record of 15 percent set in January.

I bought a MacBook Pro in late June for college and I absolutely love it. I’ll never go back to Windows. Everything just works on a Mac. Adobe CS3 is running like a charm, iLife ’08, which I just upgraded to, is awesome, and Windows XP, installed via the Boot Camp Public Beta, runs faster and more smoothly than my previous eMachines (running XP with 1.5 GB RAM and an AMD Athlon 64 processor) desktop computer.

There are obvious disadvantages to running a Mac as well, such as software incompatibility (although the gap is quickly closing, especially with the move to Intel processors), peripheral incompatibility (such as camera memory cards that are factory preformatted for Windows), and a few other finicky things, but overall there are huge advantages to running Mac OS X. The software incompatability issue can be solved by installing Boot Camp as I mentioned above, which allows you to partition your hard drive and presents you with a boot screen allowing you to choose the OS you’d like to start up with.

Everything, in my opinion, runs more smoothly on a Mac simply becuase the same company that manufactures the computer also puts out the operating systems for their units. It just makes sense. I was a little concerned that I would be limited in what I was able to do with my computer if I purchased a Mac, but truth be told I’m able to do more than I ever thought possible on a PC, and in less time. The data proves this point, with Apple coming out on top when it comes to customer satisfaction:

No pun intended, but it looks like the “window” is closing on the success of the Microsoft empire. Bill Gates is set to step down from the company in the next year and a half, the company is looking into all sorts of new directions to diversify their business, and PC sales are slipping, most notably with traditional brand leaders such as HP and Dell. Here’s a comparison between Apple and Dell:

iPod and iPhone sales have generated a lot more interest in Macintosh computers, with users discovering just how user-friendly Macs really are. I’m excited to see what lies in the future for Apple, and what they will come up with next.

Leave your thoughts about your operating system of choice.

A Clean Slate

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So last Friday could most likely be described as a preview day of sorts, in terms of college. I had one class. I’ve had three so far today, with one more tonight, and still without much of any real homework for at least another class period, I’m sitting here in the Cabell Library waiting for Jen to get out of class so we can go to dinner somewhere around here. I’ve had Art History 104, Focused Inquiry, and University 101 thus far today, and I have Psychology 101 at 7:00. It’s now 4:50 PM and I’ve been down here since 11:00 AM. I’ll be here until almost 10:00. Monday is going to be my heaviest day by far. I like all my classes so far, though, and I’ve met a few more people, which has been a little easier because a good 80% of my Focused Inquiry class is also in my University 101 class, so I’ve talked a little with a couple of the guys I sit with in my first class in the second one. Everyone I’ve encountered so far has been very nice, and as much as I liked high school (mainly the last two), it’s so cool to be able to get a fresh start and have a clean slate in front of me.

Our New Kitten Joey! (And Other Quick Blurbs)

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So we had three cats. My parents said they didn’t want any more because these were enough to keep up with. So much for that. I came home last night to find the newest edition to our family, a white (with some tabby markings mixed in) kitten who’s foster mom named Joey. We liked the name so we kept it. He’s four months old and has the most affectionate demeanor. He’s tiny, about five pounds, and wild and rambunctious! So far we haven’t introduced him to the other cats… we’re going to wait about a week and let them get used to his scent (they’ve been coming up to the room we have him shut in). The woman at the adoption place recommended this in order for them to all get along better. Here’s some pictures of him from last night:

I started my first class at VCU yesterday, Focused Inquiry (basically English except they don’t call it English anymore, and I think it’s a little different). The professor’s really nice, kind of funny, and he had us do a group introduction activity to break the ice. I met a few really nice people. I think I’m gonna like it down there a lot. Monday will be the real test, when I’m down there from 11:00 AM until 10:00 PM, with pretty much all of my classes.

So I’m hopefully going to be able to keep my job, which I originally had as just a summer position. I made my case by setting up a more permanent workspace than I had before. I was originally on this big red leather couch, but then it got moved and I was left with only a rolly chair. So, I scrounged around everyone’s cubicals and was able to find a desk, docking station for my laptop, new flat panel LCD monitor, and a new mouse and keyboard. Not bad! Here’s my very first real office workstation (it’s not that cool I know, but hey I feel special I actually have a real setup there now!):

So I’m currently installing Adobe CS3 on my Mac… I had a problem with Photoshop installing correctly before, but it’s working now. It’s taking about two hours altogether because there are eight DVDs it comes with. I’m excited. Can’t wait to try it out. Here’s a screenshot from the installation:

Everything’s Changing

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This has been an interesting week thus far. Things are kind of stabilizing. Nothing was ever that wrong, and I appreciate all the comments and Facebook messages (of both concern and praise) I got from my “vent post” this past weekend. Everyone seemed to share my sentiment about the mess up at The Dominion Club. I might have written all of that to let off some steam, but I wasn’t exaggerating how things are at the club, and I’m obviously not the only one by far who feels the way I do.

So anyway, as the post title suggests, I’m in a season of change in my life right now. One obvious change is college. I start classes Friday, and even though I’m living at home, there’s still so much change around me. A few of my really good friends have left this week for their respective colleges away from Richmond, and it’s just weird right now. It’s strange to think that they’re not coming back until Christmas. I feel a little disconnected at the moment not living on campus at VCU, especially after visiting Jen’s dorm and seeing all the bustling activity going on down there, but I know I’m going to meet a lot of cool people who I’ll end up becoming friends with, so it’s not a big deal. I’ve already met some really nice people in just the few times I’ve been on campus.

So I made another change today, hopefully for the better. I switched from Sprint to Verizon. Now I know I’m going to get a bunch of fingers pointed at me if I don’t first make this disclaimer: I know I’ve always told anyone who asked me why I didn’t have Verizon all the reason I didn’t want it (I was happy with Sprint, Verizon has (supposedly) bad customer service, and their phones are slow because of all the software they cram into them), but I don’t think I’m being completely hypocritical by switching. I have plenty of justification for my move. Just about all my friends, those I call and text both a lot and a little, have Verizon. Plus, for some reason, Sprint’s service has degraded a lot lately. I’m not really sure why. You’d think if anything it would get better as they build more towers and improve their network coverage, but who knows. I’ve had it for less than a day as I write this, but already I’ve noticed that I have a very strong signal everywhere I’ve been, including at church, which has notoriously been a really bad dead spot for my old service.

Review of the LG enV:

The new enV by LGThe service is better, sure. But what about the phone? It’s awesome. I got the new model of the enV by LG. The battery performance is far better than my old phone (often I would charge my old Samsung Blade all night and the battery would die after normal use by dinnertime), not to mention it’s just really cool. It has a dual-interface, meaning you can use almost all of its features on the front of the phone without opening it (and frankly you can’t even tell it opens up on first glance), but when you do open it you’re presented with a full “QWERTY” keyboard and crisp widescreen LCD that, believe it or not, comes close to the resolution of my MacBook Pro’s screen. The 2.0 megapixel camera has a very good white balance, and pictures actually look like they were taken on a full-featured digital camera rather than looking like the bright, washed-out pictures most phones’ cameras (including my old Blade) produce. Video quality is better than on many phones, and Verizon’s mobile internet service looks great and runs fast. Email came through almost as fast as over my Comcast broadband at home. Overall, after an afternoon of heavy use, I’d give my new phone 4 1/2 stars out of five.

Storm Damage

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Well I finally have a WordPress. I used to have a Blogger. That’s that, no need to elaborate, might as well jump right into things. So last night we had a really bad storm, the third bad one in a week, and probably fifth in a month. The wind was rediculous. The trees were bent sideways and it had to be about 60-70 MPH. We had a gazebo out back by the golf course that we used for parties and get togethers. Notice the past tense “had.” It was bungee corded on all four sides to trees and was a pretty hefty steel structure with a canvas top. It even had a chandelier in the middle. It survived the past few storms, but this one did it in. Here’s a picture of the mess out back. It looks like a tornado came through at first glance.

Thoughts On VCU

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It’s almost 1:00 in the morning. I’m getting up for VCU orientation at 6:00 AM. I should be asleep. But as I lay here in bed with my laptop with what I can only describe as some kind of heartburn like out of one of those stupid acid reflux commercials featuring the people who resemble different foods. But I digress.

Besides the fact that I’ve eaten so horribly lately and caused stuff like this to happen, the other reason I’m awake is I have a lot to think about. In just about a month, I’ll be a college student. I’m living at home the first year, but everything is still going to change. I’m a little anxious.

Tomorrow will be interesting. I listed History as my major on my application because I submitted a portfolio of related stuff I’ve done over the years (if you know me well, you know what I’m talking aout… the newspaper articles and whatnot). I don’t want to major in History. I want to do either Graphic Design or Film. I’m not sure which yet, but I know I’m not going into History, and I’m going to consequently be sitting through introcutions to what classes I need to take to support what they think is my major of choice.

This summer, though it’s been the best I’ve ever had, has felt so weird. It’s so strange to think I’m not in high school anymore, and I keep forgetting I’m not going back. By the way, all you teachers and guidance counselors that told us that high school would fly by, I have a bone to pick with you. It seemed like an eternity and a half. Freshman year seems like it was in the Dark Ages.