Category Archives: School

Cave Dwelling

I heard yesterday (Saturday) was going to be really hot, so I thought it would be cool (pun intended) to hide inside the earth for a bit. Near Mt. St. Helens, Washington, there’s this part of the park called Ape Caves, which is a former lava tube.

Ape Cave Lava Tube
(Used under creative commons, thanks iwona_kellie!

As we began our descent into the cave, there are a couple things you notice: a stark change in temperature – from 90°(f) to the average temp inside the cave of 45°(f) – and there’s a really interesting breeze blowing through. Immediately, you’re struck with a decision. A decision you have to make quickly because if the cave is busy there’s many people behind you, pushing their way in. Your two choices are this: Take the lower (or easier) cave or take the upper (harder) cave. In “life+art=reality” and in spelunking, we took the more challenging road.

As you make your choice and walk further into the cave. You lose all sense of perception as your mind, and optical nerves, adjust to the reality of complete darkness. The cave walls seem to absorb all extra noise and soon you find yourself in a weird, yet comfortable, sensory perception deprivation state. It’s blissful, almost, you’re now on your journey, flashlights in hand and ready to climb throughout this former volcanic river.

Cave Wall

Then the real “climb” begins. As you’re walking into (or out of) the cave, you have to climb and scurry around, having chosen the more difficult path. Over large boulders of rock that once floated through the canyon, watching your head for low hanging objects, squeezing through tight spaces requiring you to use your mind and body in unison to get through a difficult pass. Inside each pathway, I noticed there were almost always two decisions, two routes to take, the more difficult and challenging (or sometimes impossible) route and the relatively simple, well-traversed route. Many times you didn’t know the outcome of your choice until you took that first step. Then, it was too late to go back and start over.

Placing your feet in the correct spot was one of the more challenging tests. Each rock was either: solid and stable, shifted slightly, or was completely rickety. The problem was, no matter how many ways you tested it with your toes, you really didn’t know which state that rock was in until you put your full weight onto it.

Much like life, you never know the outcome of something, unless you give it your all. Having scurried through the cave; I did not fall once. I doubted myself many times; but, I did not fall. I have some bruises, sore muscles, and reminders of low-hanging stalactites. But, every step I took turned out, in the end, to get me to my destination. I never considered turning around. I kept putting one foot, in front of, or high above, the other. My spelunking partner and I made sure to support each other in each difficult pass, every challenging route, and every moment of rest, including moments to stop and look around at the cave’s beauty.

The toughest challenge was wall-walking. If you’ve seen someone rappel down the side of a cliff or mountain then you’ve seen someone do this before. You grab the rope, lean all of your body weight into your legs, and walk up the wall. Yesterday was my first experience with this.

There’s a part of the path which used to be a lava-waterfall and it is only about ten feet tall, but it’s still challenging to climb. Having examined the wall, I noted it’s cover of cave-slime, instantly you’re nervous about placing your feet on the wall, afraid of slipping. Up I went. I grabbed the rope firmly, leaned back, took a deep breath, placed my feet on the wall, and pulled myself up. The adrenaline kicked in and I went for it! Up the wall I climbed, over the edge and sure-footed on the top. A challenge overcome.

There were a couple places in the cave, where the groups bunched up, waiting for the last climber in their team to navigate the pass. As with life, there’s always one or two people who are impatient or unwilling to wait for someone else. There were a few of those inconsiderate people in this cave, trying to climb over/around others to get through faster. Luckily peer pressure, in this case, succeeded in forcing them to back off and wait their turn.

As we rounded a corner, we started to see light. Which gave us hope. Nearing the end, (or so we thought,) spirits lifted, we walked a little faster, and started looking around. Only to find out, it was a skylight. A place where the cave had collapsed the roof, giving us only a small peek into the outside world.

Cave Skylight

We pressed on, undeterred, and made it through to the end. Climbed out of the cave and made the hike back to the car in blue skies and beautiful weather. Challenging as the hike was, the reward was really worth it. A day spent with a friend, pushing myself to new limits, understanding what I’m fully capable of: climbing a wall of slime, seeing how nature survives in darkness, and coming through the other side.

All these things, I think, we deal with in real life, I just don’t think we take enough time to celebrate the successes. In that cave, especially in the extreme darkness, I felt great fear. No cellphone service, no light (except from our flashlights,) fear of bats(!) and virtually no sounds (except for our breathing.) Well worth the experience.

Lake Merwin through the trees

While I never intended, when we set out yesterday, to come back with a fable of cave dwelling and it’s application to real life. There are so many connections to be made here: People climbing over you to get ahead, feeling alone in large caverns, being unsure of your footing and pushing yourself to do things outside your comfort. Job well done!



It’s so hard to say “no.”

I’m a social creature by nature, contrary to as much as I bemoan them, I really do love the company of others. I like being in the thick of things and one of the hardest things for me to say when asked about attending events is: “No.”

But, I find myself having to do it more and more often. With my blistering work/school/home schedule the more I say “Yes,” the more I neglect something else. It’s hard to find balance. Take today, for example, I’m having a really tough time grasping some subjects in my math class and I haven’t been dedicating enough time to studying it or researching it so I really have been beating myself up about not understanding it, (that’s another personality/psychology trait we’ll probably talk about later) and I find myself wanting to do anything but chain myself to my desk to learn it. So, I forced myself to sit down and study the topic. This took 8 full hours today. It’s been extremely painful.

Sunset, Ocean, Reflection, Beach

The sun is shining, I have friends in town that I never get to see and yet, I have to say no. I have to stay home and knuckle down, pull out my hair, and maybe even sob a little as I try to understand what the hell I’m learning in school and the things I’m learning in life.

I know that “No” is a fairly powerful word and should be used often and appropriately. But, sometimes it’s easier and more fun to say yes and go play.

Instead I sit here, inside, reading about equations, fractions and negative exponents. All things I’d much rather forget.

How do you motivate yourself to do something you have absolutely no desire to do when there are more fun alternatives?

Teachers Matter

Subtext: the right teachers matter.

We all know I’m currently in college. I’ve had the experience of good teachers and very BAD teachers. There are all types of teachers and usually the good ones leave and do something different/better and the bad ones get tenure? No, I’m kidding, that’s purely in jest. I’ve had my fair share of bad/poor teachers in community college. There are plenty of teachers who are just phoning it in and don’t care what you learn, just so they can tick things off on their, created by someone else, lesson plans. Those teachers hurt, they hurt my bank account, they hurt the college image and they hurt the quality of degrees.

But – good teachers matter. I’m sure we’ve all heard me bemoan my absolute dislike for math and having to learn it all over again. That’s actually where I got this post idea. I was sitting in my math class this week, and realized, the reason I like this teacher, compared to the one I had last term in which I dropped the class because I wasn’t getting it, was that he has an enthusiasm for the subject, he enjoys math. I mean, he’s REALLY jazzed on math. I don’t know what kind of person in this world likes math, some certainly warped people, indeed. Though, he may be warped, I’m learning and I have the energy to try harder, study more, and the confidence to ask more questions.

Teacher perspective
(Photo credit: Krugazor – Creative commons via Flickr)

I’ve also had a great teacher in my speech class. Now, speech (public speaking) is something that comes easy to me. The first couple times with the data, I tend to be a little rigid, but then I loosen up, get someone to smile, do the song and dance, and have a great time with it. That makes it worth it. My speech teacher, only teaches on weekends, has a full-time job in the meantime, and does this because she loves to talk in front of people (and realizes she’s a bit of a ham!), and loves to help people through – what is normally – a very difficult class. I wish she taught other subjects, I’d take the classes just for the enthusiasm. It was well worth coming in on Saturday mornings to speak in front of a group of strangers!

The third teacher I really like is my current science teacher. A professional in the industry she teaches in, she realizes that not everyone is going to be a scientist, she also realizes that most of us are not science majors; that’s refreshing from a teacher. A teacher who understands that we’re trying to take the least painful requirements and can scale their presentations to bring it to a level that we become interested in and understand how these things affect our life. And she’s great in a nerdy fun way. I can appreciate nerdy fun. 🙂

Falling teacher
(Photo credit: Pitel – Creative Commons via Flickr)

I think the key in all cases, has been: Enthusiasm. When you’re faced with that kind of enthusiasm, you find yourself wanting to try harder, work harder to understand. It’s matching that enthusiasm, even when you’re completely exhausted from the full workday, you still strive to make it through, and if you’re like me, you want a good grade; Yes, teachers do matter.

To The Moon, Alice.

*blows off the dust* I haven’t blogged in 2012 over here. Wow. (I’ve been focused on posting a daily quote and daily photo over at

I could say that I have been extremely busy, and It would be true, but I looked back and I have written 14 other posts about being busy in life.

So I won’t go on with that. What I’ve been concerned with of late, besides school, work, and other miscellany, is reaching for things larger than myself.

Meaning: I Like To Shoot For The Moon

Now, before you go and cover your eyes, let me explain. Growing up, I used to thrive on mediocrity; in school, in life, wherever I was given the opportunity to “meet expectations,” I did. I did not try, I didn’t stress – I was confident with half-assed.

I don’t know when it changed. At some point in my life I became interested in taking on the big stuff. I decided that I didn’t want to be mediocre, I didn’t want to blend into the world, so I kept reaching for the bigger dreams, the long-shots, the things I probably didn’t have a real shot at in the first place. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you do not.


Yes, I have been busy and I have been challenged. Sometimes, I’m even beyond my own limits, I rarely give up. At the end of the day, I feel fulfilled. Sometimes, I feel tired, too. I don’t always get to the goal I intended, but I always give it as much effort as I am able.

And that, my friends, is all you can do. It is enough.

Top 11 Posts of 2011

Well, we’re almost to 2012 and recently I posted my top 11 photos of ’11, so I thought I would dig around in my stats and share with you the items that a plurality of you decided to visit over the year. They’re ranked by number of views.

11: (Dis)Engaging Google+ – I’ve written that I’m not a fan of Google+. Based on my experiences, my opinion hasn’t changed from August 11, 2011.

10: 10 Things (About me) – Interesting, this post, written around my birthday in 2010 garnered enough views this year to make my list. I find it funny that it’s number 10. 🙂

9: Oh, to be Popular. #199 – My 199th blog post here. A photo essay of my top Flickr photos. Be sure to check out #1 if you haven’t already.

8: Crossroads. Help Me, Pathfinder! – A great post about my future education and where I want to go from here. I say it was a great post because it offered me some good conversations with people about the state of education, what I should focus on as I continue forward and helped me figure out where I truly am in my head.

7: Good Customer Service: America’s Tire – I’m thrilled that a “Good Customer Service” story made the list. The adage goes, a happy customer will tell no one, while an unhappy customer will tell everyone. That’s not true in my case, I try to give equal time to good and bad customer service.

6: O.H. in the E.R. – On of my funnier (and sad) posts about an ill-fated trip to the ER last August. My pain is your joy. The things you hear in an ER waiting room are rather funny. If you take the time to listen.

(Photo Credit: Sea Turtle on Flickr)

5: Following the Pack (or not) – A post from last February where I offer my commentary on a “gorilla marketing tactic” on Twitter that was horribly spammy. I found it interesting that my desire to speak up was met with extreme hostility and mob mentality, which border-lined on bullying. I still stand by my opinions and observations. Sometimes you have to go out on a limb. Be bold.

4: The Lone Zebra, an Educational Opportunity – Written regarding a kerfuffle in the Real Estate Community about copyright and trade dress infringement. This gave me an opportunity to put into real life practice some things I had been learning in my Business Law class. It was a great case study.

3: Guest Post: Judgment Between The Lines – I’m so thrilled you liked, or viewed, this post. It was an important post. A guest post by my close friend Sarah Salter, she writes about something I think we all struggle with: Judgement and its many forms. An extremely timely, timeless and poignant post, worthy of read, whether it’s your first time or tenth.

2: Missing The Mark: Sears – Christmas Customer Service – Wow. This post, written just six days ago, outlined some poor customer service I received from a National big box store. Outlining the systemic issues from corporate culture, to employee detachment (An employee adds his comments to the post) it has become one of my most popular Customer Service Commentary posts.

Singapore Fireworks Celebrations '08 - Korean Fantasia 3
(Photo Credit: Synchroni on Flickr)

1: You’re Welcome?!? – A post from this summer, I volunteered at a women only half marathon this year, I was struck and moved that almost every single runner, no matter how fatigued or festive, took a moment to thank the volunteers, when all I really was doing was standing in the middle of the road. I’m very thankful and grateful that this is my number one viewed post. It makes me believe that you all enjoy a little bit of gratitude in our world and maybe we/I need to be sharing a little more of it.

I’m extremely proud of these posts and some of them I think are close to “my best.” I hope that this streak continues in 2012!

School Update/Winter Break

Wow. The fall term just BLEW RIGHT BY. Actually, I am kind of thankful for that. I had a really hard time getting into the rhythm of school this term and I’m really glad for the winter break. No more school until January 9th!

I am, however, somewhat proud of my grades.
Economics: A
Human Relations/Organizations: B
Geology: C

Not bad, a B average would have still been honor roll in High School, which I would have killed for then. Still, not bad for someone who works about 40-50 hours a week, runs in his spare time, and goes to school full time. It’s still funny to me, that we (I) lament a “C” like a punch to the gut. It’s a strange place.

I also love Winter break as I’m able to catch up on all the books I want to read. So far, since Thanksgiving, I’ve ticked 3 books off my “to read” list at the Library:

Ten Thousand Saints
This Beautiful Life
Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Wall of Books

(Used under creative commons, thanks Mr. T!)

Ten Thousand Saints was a well-written, heavy, deep piece of literature on drugs, conflict, society and the “Straight Edge” music scene in the early 1980s. It was a fantastic read and I was kind of sad to be finished with it.

This Beautiful Life, in short, wasn’t. I kept reading it, hoping that it would get just a little better. It was on the verge of being great, but the writer was topical at best. The subjects weren’t well developed and the conflict was more fizz than boom. Sad.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – I’ve read this type of thing many times before. I’m almost always struck by how every other book spins the same information and tries to frame it in a way that is cookie-cutter for the general populace. It’s just not possible.

I’m currently reading two books, one in the car and one in print. In the car: Lost Memory of Skin (which is turning out to be really good) and I just started The Coming Jobs War. I’ll tell you about those when I’m finished.

Next to my driver’s license, the most important card in my wallet is my library card. 🙂

Be Thankful; I Am.

I could write something super sentimental but I thought there’s a much better way to tell you what I’ve been thankful this year. Since I like to take pictures of just about everything, I thought I’d show you.

Some Sports Firsts:

Safeco Field, Seattle, Washington, Mariners

I’ve been fortunate to attend two major sports events this year. My hometown teams, (don’t hate, I grew up in Seattle,) the Seattle Mariners, and the Seattle Seahawks games were exciting, while the Mariners lost, the Seattle Seahawks celebrated their first win of the season in a total nail biter. The stadium in Seattle is billed as one of the loudest in the National Football League. You can hear what that’s like here.

Centurylink Field Seattle Washington Seahawks

Having Enough To Eat:

I love to cook. I’ve showcased some of that here on my blog. I am fortunate and thankful that I’ve been able to provide for myself this year. There are so many people out there who cannot.

Some things I have enjoyed this year:

A balanced meal:
mmmm.  @sarahmsalter

A double-bacon heart attack: (It’s delicious!)
Humdingers Hamburgers on Barbur blvd, portland oregon

To my 22 regularly subscribed readers. Thank you. Most of this what comes forth from my head is just what shakes out when I’m thinking, but you all stick with me, through the rants, through the raves and through all this. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We’re a small but determined group.

Below you’ll see some more photos of things I’ve seen this year:

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